Author Topic: Any hospital administrators out there - does this mean a layoff is coming?  (Read 2208 times)

Monkey Uncle

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My son is an entry-level admin employee at a non-profit hospital in a rural town.  In addition to standard inpatient care, the hospital has branched out into all sorts of outpatient procedures and imaging, and they house several general and specialist physician practices.  Right now we have very little coronavirus in our area (although obviously that could change quickly).  In preparation for a potential surge, the hospital has preemptively cancelled or postponed pretty much everything except urgent procedures and appointments, and many patients are staying away on their own, which has led to a steep drop in patient traffic.  I assume this also means a steep drop in revenue, although I have no actual knowledge of that.

For several weeks, my son has been getting a steady stream of all-employee emails saying that every employee is essential no matter their job function, they all will stay on the job for the duration, no one will telework, and employees should avoid taking time off.  Yesterday, the messaging turned on a dime.  He got an all-employee email asking administrative employees to volunteer for unpaid leave for the next 1-3 months.  They couched it as an escape opportunity for employees who are concerned about catching coronavirus at work.  To sweeten the pot, they are offering to pay the full cost of health insurance for the duration of the voluntary unpaid leave.  They've given employees until April 1 to respond.

As far as I've been able to determine, people who take voluntary unpaid leave are not eligible for unemployment compensation in West Virginia, even under the relaxed criteria for the current pandemic.  So, I expect very few people will take the bait, and I'm guessing that a layoff notice will come out on April 2.  But my son is nervous that if he doesn't take this opportunity, he might not get laid off and would wind up stuck in a disease-breeding cube farm for the next few months.

I want to advise him to sit tight and wait for the layoff notice that I suspect is coming.  If he gets laid off, he would be eligible for unemployment, and I'm pretty sure he would actually end up making more money than he currently makes due to the extra $600 a week that Congress just passed.  I think, but I'm not absolutely certain, that he also would be eligible to sign up for ACA health insurance coverage to cover him while he is laid off, which would be better (though maybe more expensive) than the crappy self-insurance plan that the hospital provides.

What am I missing here?  Am I reading the impending layoff signs correctly?  Anything else he should consider regarding unemployment and health insurance?

Thanks.

Chrissy

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I'm not a hospital administrator, but... I think you're right, he shouldn't volunteer to take the unpaid leave.  It potentially puts him at a financial disadvantage.

mlipps

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I would double & triple check that he is not eligible for unemployment as a result of this. I realize that every state is a little different but a friend just took a voluntary furlough here in Chicago & is expecting to receive benefits. Otherwise, yes, I think you're right. Hospitals are going to be in a world of hurt financially from this pandemic, and the rural ones are operating on especially thin margins to begin with.

Monkey Uncle

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I would double & triple check that he is not eligible for unemployment as a result of this. I realize that every state is a little different but a friend just took a voluntary furlough here in Chicago & is expecting to receive benefits. Otherwise, yes, I think you're right. Hospitals are going to be in a world of hurt financially from this pandemic, and the rural ones are operating on especially thin margins to begin with.

It's a tough thing to get a handle on.  The governor issued an executive order that waived the one-week waiting period, the "able and available" requirement, and the work search requirement, but it did not waive the requirement to be unemployed through no fault of your own. 

slappy

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I've been following the stimulus information, but I'm still confused as to why they would pay someone more on unemployment than they were making while they worked.

terran

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I've been following the stimulus information, but I'm still confused as to why they would pay someone more on unemployment than they were making while they worked.

Are you confused why they would as in the reasoning for doing this, or why they would as in how that would happen under the legislation that was passed?

I think the answer to the first question is that they wanted to get something out fast rather than dicker over specifics of how things should be calculated. The same reason they're giving almost all adults $1200.

As for the second question, everything I've seen indicates that people will get $600/week more than they they normally get under their states unemployment rules, which for anyone making around $600/week or somewhat more (by however much their state pays) will make out better. One example I looked at seems to pay half what you normally make at your job, so anyone who makes less than $1200/week in that state would make out better under the new legislation.

wellactually

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There is a trickle-up component to this crisis that makes immediate, significant support to people on the edge super important.

I just advised a friend who works overnights at a fitness center to file for unemployment for April when she will be laid off for likely at least 4 weeks as the stores are all closed. She and her husband are on the edge and a mild financial emergency puts them at risk of defaulting on their student loans and consumer credit debt. If they don't have her income, they might not be able to pay rent. If a landlord has several low-income tenants who've lost their jobs and fail to pay rent, they might have cashflow issues paying debt leveraged on their properties.

Making sure people can pay for their bare necessities and not default on monthly payments helps keep the entire system from shifting and cracking. It also helps places like her nationwide fitness center employer. Hopefully this layoff is 6 weeks or less and then they can retain their trained employees after it's over because those employees have gotten sufficient unemployment. Without it, many might not come back to work and would potentially even violate quarantine/stay at home orders in order to find any income.

Contrary to what Atlas Shrugged would have us believe, it's the workers that make the economy move, not the John Galts.

BeanCounter

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Hospital system finance is my career.
My system (mid size city) is losing $20M per day because of the cancellation of electives and any non-emergent visits. Our volumes are way down, which means lower net revenue.  We are planning our layoffs now.
I would wait for the layoff. If it doesn't come and he still wants to leave because he's afraid then he can quit and sign up for the ACA. He's then no worse than the voluntary except that he won't have a job waiting for him later.
Just a side note-
I highly doubt that the ACA is better than your sons plan at the hospital. Just because it's self insured does not mean it's not a good plan. It may have high deductibles and a narrow network, but most plans do now. Except for the old school PPO plans with the big payers.

Monkey Uncle

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Hospital system finance is my career.
My system (mid size city) is losing $20M per day because of the cancellation of electives and any non-emergent visits. Our volumes are way down, which means lower net revenue.  We are planning our layoffs now.
I would wait for the layoff. If it doesn't come and he still wants to leave because he's afraid then he can quit and sign up for the ACA. He's then no worse than the voluntary except that he won't have a job waiting for him later.
Just a side note-
I highly doubt that the ACA is better than your sons plan at the hospital. Just because it's self insured does not mean it's not a good plan. It may have high deductibles and a narrow network, but most plans do now. Except for the old school PPO plans with the big payers.

Thanks; it's good to hear some confirmation from someone in hospital finance. 

My son heard today that the hospital says they are doing this because the state is putting pressure on them to get non-medical staff out of the hospital as a way of reducing the spread of the virus.  I'm not sure I believe that.  The hospital is also saying that people who take the unpaid leave voluntarily will not be eligible for unemployment.  My take on the situation is that they are in a serious revenue crunch, and they're trying to get as many people as possible to take voluntary leave to reduce the hospital's share of unemployment benefits.  My son has decided to sit tight and wait.

Our state's ACA network has some very good BCBS silver plans that have reasonable deductibles and a network that includes 95% of the health care providers in the state.  It's what my wife and I have, and we've been very pleased with it.  Way better than the high deductible/narrow network self insurance that the hospital provides.  Of course, my son could never afford a silver plan if he had to pay full price, but at his income level, he wouldn't pay anywhere close to full price.

Proud Foot

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It's a good call for him to just sit and wait at this time. I work in the corporate office of a hospital and we started reducing hours and sending people home this week. The majority of our revenue comes from non-emergent and elective surgeries so our case load has been very light the past few weeks. We started sending home non-essential employees because of a lack or work but have not had any lay offs.

As for the voluntary leave and being ineligible for unemployment I would tell him to find information on the West VA unemployment laws. When our HR sent out the notice of reducing hours they also included the link to our state's unemployment office website and some information on filing for unemployment. Our state considers an individual to be unemployed and eligible for unemployment benefits during any week they perform no services and no wages are payable to them. So it is possible to apply and receive unemployment benefits while technically still being employed.

Your take on the hospital being in a serious revenue crunch is spot on. They probably still have cash coming in from the billing/processing lag but having very minimal cases right now has a huge impact on cash flows in 30-45 days.

Monkey Uncle

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The hospital put out another email to employees today (1) reiterating that people who take voluntary unpaid leave can't file for unemployment, and (2) coming clean on the fact that revenue has crashed by 25%, and that anyone who doesn't take the unpaid leave may be furloughed or have their hours cut.  I'm still not sure why anyone would take the voluntary unpaid leave, but apparently some people are doing it.

Dibbels81

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My brother-in-law is a new physical therapy grad, and he's been working at an outpatient clinic that has been temporarily closed for several weeks. He was doing some teletherapy, but not too much. His company asked for volunteers to furlough, with a message that if nobody volunteers, there still would be furloughs, but with a 10% salary reduction upon being rehired. He volunteered, as he would have been the first to go as the newest hire. How is that for nice?

SimpleCycle

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People who take voluntary unpaid leave are not eligible for unemployment, but under the stimulus rules, people who are furloughed are.  A furlough is the best possible scenario for a lot of low wage workers - keep their health insurance and have a job to return to, while also collecting UI.

@Dibbels81, that is horrible and possibly illegal, but I doubt anything will be enforced in these times.

Chrissy

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The hospital put out another email to employees today (1) reiterating that people who take voluntary unpaid leave can't file for unemployment, and (2) coming clean on the fact that revenue has crashed by 25%, and that anyone who doesn't take the unpaid leave may be furloughed or have their hours cut.  I'm still not sure why anyone would take the voluntary unpaid leave, but apparently some people are doing it.

They're trying to take the revenue back out of the hides of their employees.  They wanted to do layoffs without paying the increased unemployment percentages that it would result.

@Dibbels81  Your BIL works for a pack of criminals.  In his shoes, I'd be very tempted to walk and forward the message from his employers to a local reporter.

Monkey Uncle

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The hospital put out another email to employees today (1) reiterating that people who take voluntary unpaid leave can't file for unemployment, and (2) coming clean on the fact that revenue has crashed by 25%, and that anyone who doesn't take the unpaid leave may be furloughed or have their hours cut.  I'm still not sure why anyone would take the voluntary unpaid leave, but apparently some people are doing it.

They're trying to take the revenue back out of the hides of their employees.  They wanted to do layoffs without paying the increased unemployment percentages that it would result.

@Dibbels81  Your BIL works for a pack of criminals.  In his shoes, I'd be very tempted to walk and forward the message from his employers to a local reporter.

Yes, that's exactly what they're doing.

AnnaGrowsAMustache

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I'm a hospital administrator. I think they may be trying to shed the people that don't want to be there (or are immuno compromised etc), before they redeploy staff. Pandemic or not, someone still has to oversee funding, billing, supply chain, in house procedures like sterilisation, staffing, payroll, waste disposal, food, laundry, laboratory, in house information and graphics, training, phones and inquiry, website information etc etc etc. All that is completely apart from patient tracking and management of their information which still goes on in a pandemic. The busier a hospital is, the more paperwork there is, even in crisis. The medical staff will be taken off some of their usual admin tasks so they can deal with patients. Someone will still have to do them. I can't really speak to how an american hospital might behave, but it would be a foolish move to lay off admin staff in this context, imo.

nht

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Some of my doctor friends are telling me they are getting ready to cut pay for doctors and nurses...in the middle of a pandemic.  Of course administrators arenít taking pay cuts.  They are also terminating folks that speak out.

If any administrator ever wondered why sometimes it feels like there is an adversarial relationship that might be why.

Paul der Krake

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@Dibbels81  Your BIL works for a pack of criminals.  In his shoes, I'd be very tempted to walk and forward the message from his employers to a local reporter.
What law prohibits rehiring at a lower wage?

AnnaGrowsAMustache

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Some of my doctor friends are telling me they are getting ready to cut pay for doctors and nurses...in the middle of a pandemic.  Of course administrators arenít taking pay cuts.  They are also terminating folks that speak out.

If any administrator ever wondered why sometimes it feels like there is an adversarial relationship that might be why.

Wow, that's ungood.

There's always a tension between medical and admin. We're pulling in the same direction but we have entirely different priorities, and neither generally understand the other's job. At the end of the day, however, we are SUPPORT STAFF, and if the med team doesn't feel supported we have a big problem. Sometimes we just need to tell each other we're in each other's way. Sure, med staff want to treat but there are legal and audit requirements that notes are done and things signed off also. Sure, admin want things signed off asap, but patients take priority because that's why we're all there. It's a balancing act that needs communication and mutual respect.