Boston Hospital Chooses the Sox Over Saving Money

Oh Boston…a stunning city rich with history, and understandably mad about their Red Sox. After all, they just so recently overcame the Curse of the Bambino to win a World Series, and it’s no surprise that the city and the baseball cans are rabid for the team’s good fortune to continue. One hospital that provides health care in Boston, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, loves the team so much that they are not going to give up their partnership being the Sox’s “official hospital” while facing massive budget cuts. What is the hospital having to cut to keep ties with the team intact, and how might this effect hospital employees?

A Hospital’s Swing and a Miss

Imagine you are a hardworking, dedicated employee of your local hospital. You work hard, provide patients with the best care imaginable, and one day you come in to work to find that you won’t be getting matching contributions to your 401k as you were promised upon your initial hire. Why? “Oh, we want to keep out relationship with the Boston Red Sox strong. Sorry.”

This is the reality that many employees of Beth Israel are probably hear from CEO Paul Levy. Like many organizations, health care and otherwise in the United States, Beth Israel needs to cut costs after facing a $20 million operating loss in FY2008. Fortunately the hospital has been able to cut back from a planned 600 job cuts to 150, thanks to some creative planning. What will be getting cut to save the hospital money? It seems like most of it is going to directly affect employees and their benefits.

Although it’s slated to be temporary, Beth Israel will no long be matching contributions employees make to their 401k  and 403b accounts. Employees who were expecting annual 3% annual salary increases can kiss those goodbye (though those who are “lower-paid” will be exempt), and senior executives are going to take voluntary pay cuts. To take the cost-cutting even further, the hospital plans to save $100,000 by getting rid of the annual company BBQ, scale down on other events, and stop reimbursing for cellphones and Blackberries.

Sox Take Precedence at Hospital

Look, I’m a baseball fan myself. And I can really understand how being the “official hospital” of a major league baseball team can bring in some priceless advertising time. But it’s such a bold statement to be making on the hospital’s part, and it almost seems like the hospital is choosing the relationship they have with the Red Sox over that they are cultivating with their employees.

Levy says that Beth Israel is contractually bound to keep working with the Sox, but he also states that “our name is seen and heard by 2 million fans per year at Fenway Park and millions more on radio and television during the games,” adding “We could never afford to buy that kind of visibility with traditional advertising.”

This makes me wonder what kind of data gathering Beth Israel has done on how much business they actually get from their relationship with the Sox. Yes, they are reaching the ears and eyes of millions of fans per year. But how many of them actually come to the hospital? If they haven’t already, I’d highly recommend that Beth Israel hire some kind of consulting company to help them survey and figure out how many of their patients over the years they’ve been working with the Sox have come as a result of hearing about the hospital at games or on the radio. This way they could have concrete figures on whether or not their relationship is truly beneficial, and they might be able to save money be severing that relationship instead of ruining ones with employees.

If you live in Massachusetts or any other state that pays homage to a professional sports team, health insurance is something you should be thinking about. To learn about health insurance options in all 50 states you can visit our listing of health insurance by state here.