Blue Cross Is Cutting Employee Time off; the Insurance Company Says Downgrading Benefits Will Allow More Affordable Products

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Byline: URVAKSH KARKARIA

Workers at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida will soon be logging more hours in their cubicles as the company tries to juice productivity and cut costs.

Employees at the health insurance company will lose an average of one work week of paid time off annually, said Deborah Williams, vice president of learning and organizational effectiveness programs.

Starting Dec. 31, workers will accrue between 18 and 32 days of paid time off annually. Employees now receive 25 to 37 PTO days -- which refers to vacation and sick time -- based on length of service, Williams said.

Jacksonville-based Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida employs about 9,300 statewide, including about 8,000 locally.

Williams declined to say how much the benefit cut is expected to save the company each year.

However, John Lind, who quit Blue Cross last Wednesday -- the day the company announced the benefit reduction -- does not believe the cost savings from the benefit cut will be substantial. He referred to any potential savings as a "drop in the bucket compared to all of their overall expenses."

Although Lind, who was training to process claims, did not walk out because of the benefit cut, he said it "would have been another reason to leave."

In 2004, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida experienced the strongest balanced performance in company history, according to a fact sheet on its Web site. Blue Cross reported consolidated total revenue of $6. …