Premiums jump as much as 500 percent for some hospital workers

To ring in the New Year, about 2,000 part-time workers at Boston-based Brigham & Women's Hospital will see triple-digit insurance premium hikes, reports WBUR's CommonHealth. Health insurance premium payments for some part-time workers will jump 300, 400, and even 500 percent starting Jan. 1. Full-time employees will only see an 8 percent rise.

BWH changed its part-time benefits program to be consistent with other hospitals, as well as to cut costs and save jobs amid financial pressure, said Vice President of Human Resources Lisa S. Ponton in a letter to employees.

But not all agree with that logic. "The percentage increases that are being given to these part-time workers are really quite extraordinary," Nancy Turnbull, associate dean of the Harvard School of Public Health, told CommonHealth. "Part-time workers tend to be lower-paid, so this is very regressive."

Previously, health insurance for part-time, entry-level workers was free after the first year. Now they'll have to pay around $47 per week for the cheapest plan. Upper-level, part-time employees, like administrators, will have to pay $130 each week.

"Asking part-time employees to contribute to their health benefit on a pro-rated basis is a standard at hospitals and businesses, both locally and nationally," Erin McDonough, the hospital's senior vice president for communication and public affairs, said in a statement. "It is important to note that the FY'11 rates for part-time employees are highly competitive."

Workers aren't the only ones facing premium hikes at BWH. The hospital has been named one of 15 high-cost hospitals in Massachusetts that Blue Cross Blue Shield is urging consumers to avoid if they want to see reduced premium increases next year, notes the Patriot Ledger.

For more:
- read  the WBUR's CommonHealth article
- check out the Patriot Ledger article
- read BWH's statement on benefit changes