Premera Blue Cross will eliminate hundreds of jobs as it seeks to cut costs sparked by the current economic downturn.

Premera Blue Cross will eliminate hundreds of jobs as it seeks to cut costs sparked by the current economic downturn.

Mountlake Terrace-based health insurer Premera cuts 285 jobs

The layoff at Premera Blue Cross, prompted by the economic downturn, represents about 8.3% of its workforce.

MOUNTLAKE TERRACE — Premera Blue Cross, one of the Northwest’s largest health insurers, will eliminate 236 local jobs as it seeks to rein in costs of the pandemic-induced economic downturn.

Premera will lay off 285 people in “non-customer-facing positions” — with most job cuts occurring locally, Dani Chung, a company spokeswoman, said in an email.

“In the Puget Sound region, 236 positions will be eliminated,” Chung said.

“I cannot share specific positions as all impacted employees have not yet been notified. Positions range across the company,” Chung said.

Layoff notices were expected to be distributed beginning this week.

The Mountlake Terrace-based non-profit health insurance company employs nearly 3,500 people in the Seattle area, Spokane and Anchorage. About 2,000 employees work at the company’s corporate headquarters in Mountlake Terrace and in Bothell offices.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic struck full force in March, most Premera employees have been working from home.

“Unfortunately, the global pandemic and the subsequent impact to the economy has forced us to move beyond our normal efficiency and cost-saving efforts to eliminate approximately 285 non-customer-facing positions out of 3,442 employees,” Chung said in a company statement. That figure represents a cut of about 8.3%.

Chung said the pandemic and the accompanying economic downturn made layoffs necessary.

“While Premera remains strong financially, we recognize the tremendous toll the global pandemic has taken on the economy and many of our group and individual customers,” Chung said.

“Now, more than ever, affordability is the number one barrier to receiving high quality care, and we must do all that we can to reduce our costs and pass those savings on to our customers.”

The health insurer pledged to help employees through “this difficult transition, including offering generous severance packages and access to company-funded out placement services,” Chung said.

Chung said the company continues an effort to help shore up health care.

“Premera has offered more than $100 million in advance payments to doctors and hospitals to help them keep the doors open during the lockdown, more than $65 million in premium relief and rebates to our customers and $5 million to local nonprofits to address issues of health equity and social justice,” Chung said.

Premera serves more than 2 million customers in Washington and Alaska. In 2018, the company reported annual revenue of $10 billion.

Janice Podsada; jpodsada@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3097; Twitter: JanicePods

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