In late July, when Pillowtex, a textile manufacturer in North Carolina, declared bankruptcy, 7,650 workers lost their jobs. Health benefits became an immediate concern — no surprise there. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina took up some of the slack, offering displaced workers guaranteed health insurance coverage in which the federal government will pay 65 percent of the monthly premium. That means, reports the Charlotte Observer, that a healthy family of four can get coverage for about $190 a month. It starts Oct. 1, and the much more expensive COBRA coverage will have to do until then. The plight of the Pillowtex workers touches on deep concerns in society, according to a recent survey of 1,015 adults conducted by Rutgers University. In it, 71 percent of workers who had been laid off between 2000 and 2003 support government strategies that would help those out of work maintain health benefits. "There's neither private sector nor government support that's going to most people," says Carl Van Horn, director of the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers.
SOURCES: THE DISPOSABLE WORKER: LIVING IN A JOB-LOSS ECONOMY, JOHN J. HELDRICH CENTER FOR WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT AT RUTGERS UNIVERSITY, AND THE CENTER FOR SURVEY RESEARCH AND ANALYSIS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT