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Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

MA Health Reform Has a New Exhibit A: Friendly's Ice Cream

MA Health Reform Has a New Exhibit A: Friendly's Ice Cream

January 25, 2006

Today's Globe has a front page piece by Jeff Krasner on how Friendly's Ice Cream Stores terminated comprehensive health insurance for all its non-management workers in October and now provides only limited benefit or "mini-medical" plans for its 454 full time workers. Maximum annual outpatient benefit (including drugs) is $2000; depending on premium, hospital benefits are capped at $10K or $50K -- daily limit for how much of the hospital bill will be covered ranges from $100 to $500 per day. Average hospital bill in MA per day is $1600.

Friendly's has 570 outlets, incuding stores in 91 MA cities and towns and in 15 other states. Its website touts "magical moments" -- boy, that was magical moment when it screwed its workers last October. No mention of that on the site. As of yesterday, their stock sold at $8.50 a share. Interesting to see what happens to it today.

Friends, this is hugely important in the context of the MA health reform debate. Friendly's is not a struggling "mom 'n pop" store -- it's a large corporation that has decided its workers no longer matter. It's creating havoc in the lives of its workers not because it has to, because it can. This is the shape of health insurance to come. If you have not yet spoken out on health reform and employer responsibility, now is the time, and Friendly's is our new Exhibit A.

Will our friends in the business community who oppose the House payroll assessment -- Mike Widmer, Rick Lord, Paul Guzzi, Alan MacDonald, Jon Hurst, Bill Vernon -- defend this callous move or speak our against it? Will legislators who have opposed the assessment call on Friendly's executives to reverse this harsh step which will end up costing taxpayers and the state treasury? Will Governor Romney ... oh never mind. Will this awful development convince health care providers -- who get left holding the tab for underinsured workers -- to stop sitting on their hands and join this important fight?

And will it move you? If you want to help, call your state senator and ask him or her to support the House payroll assessment on employers who provide little or no coverage to workers. Go to the Affordable Care Today website now.

Remember Friendly's.