Westbrook Manufacturer Cuts Employee Healthcare Premiums
As companies deal with rising healthcare costs and worker shortages, Westbrook-based manufacturer The Lee Company is making a significant investment in its employees.
Beginning Jan. 1, 2023, the manufacturer of miniature precision fluid control products is offering free medical insurance to all its nearly 1,100 employees.
“This is an unprecedented move and our employees earned it and we’re thrilled to be able to offer it,” The Lee Company president and CEO Bill Lee [pictured above, right] said at a Jan. 10 press conference.
“It’s a significant investment for us, but we feel it’s the right thing to do. We know our employees are our most valuable asset and we work hard to take care of them.”
Under the new policy, employees will continue to be covered by their existing Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield Century Preferred plan.
The plan extends to their spouses and families and will not include any changes to deductibles or copays.
‘Peace of Mind’
“Knowing that we don’t need to worry about monthly premiums gives us valuable peace of mind,” said manufacturing supervisor Mark Wolf.
According to an Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality survey, the average annual employee contribution for family coverage in Connecticut is more than $6,000.
“It’s one thing to have free healthcare, it’s another thing to have the type of free healthcare that we have here,” said Wolf.
Wolf’s son suffered a stroke and slipped into a coma after his birth in 2001, and spent nearly a month in the hospital.
“It was an absolute nightmare,” he said.
He added that when he called his employers, “they just quickly said Mark, take your time, take care of your family, take care of your son and we’re going to be here when you get back.”
“It was profound because I can remember that first day when I went to that first appointment, and I paid $30 and that’s all I ever paid,” he said.
Now 22, Wolf’s son suffers from Tourette Syndrome, autism and other complications from the stroke.
“The medical program here is unprecedented,” said Wolf.
“We pride ourselves on being a family owned and operated business,” said company COO, general counsel, and corporate secretary Marietta Lee.
“But our definition of family includes not just the Lees, it’s also our employees and their families.”
Free healthcare is the latest benefit offered by The Lee Company, which also provides a 100% company-funded profit-sharing plan, tuition reimbursement, bonuses, a scholarship fund, and advanced manufacturing training.
It’s those benefit offerings that The Lee Company, which was founded in 1948, is hoping will attract new talent amid a statewide workforce shortage.
According to the 2022 Connecticut Manufacturing Report, 87% of manufacturers report difficulty finding and retaining employees.
The company says it hired more people last year than any in its 75 year history, and expects to hire even more this year.
Prioritizing Affordable Healthcare
“If every unemployed person had a job today, we’d still have nearly 40,000 job openings in our state,” said CBIA president and CEO Chris DiPentima.
“This step is a necessary one for Lee to take, in their mind, in order to maintain and grow their innovative workforce.”
DiPentima said making it easier for businesses to offer affordable healthcare to their employees needs to be a priority at a statewide level.
“Most companies in Connecticut can’t afford such a significant investment,” he said.
“It’s critical that we take a page from The Lee Company’s book and we embrace innovative solutions to help companies in Connecticut recover and grow.”
‘Putting Employees First’
Connecticut’s chief manufacturing officer Paul Lavoie called the announcement an example of a company putting its employees first.
“Enlightened companies understand that the cycle of business is that your team members come first because your team members take care of your customers and your customers take care of your business,” he said.
Wolf, who has been with the company for 28 years, says this is another way the Lees work to improve the lives of their employees.
“Bill Lee always says to us that none of this is possible without all of you,” he said.
“But we can say the same about the Lee family. None of this is possible without the Lee family.”
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