ALAMOSA — Friday Health Plans laid off 55 employees at its Alamosa location this week. Employees were given the news mid-morning on Thursday, effective immediately.
According to Sal Gentile, Friday Health Plans CEO, that number constitutes 12% of the roughly 450 people employed at the Friday Health Plans Alamosa operations center. Gentile said that, across the entire company, 20% of employees were laid off with staff in some areas being laid off entirely.
“Across the whole company, other areas got hit harder than Alamosa,” he said. “And I tried to take it down in Alamosa as far as I could, but I just couldn’t get it below 12%.”
The decision was made after the company pulled out of Texas for the 2023 plan year. In the 2022 plan year, Friday’s open enrollment in that state far exceeded all expectations, resulting in Friday Health Plan having more than 300,000 enrolled members in Texas alone, which, Gentile said, is probably “slightly more than all the other states combined.” Pulling out of Texas resulted in, according to Gentile, “about half” of a reduction in the company’s revenue.
Employees in Alamosa will receive severance pay tied to how long they were employed at the company with details provided to each individual next week. Also, according to Gentile, the company is “engaged” with several of their business partners to help find employment for those who were laid off.
Those business partners are in the same industry and employ people with similar customer service and claims processing skills as Friday Health Plans. Gentile said those companies are not located in Alamosa but work with employees remotely. He named UTS and Denver-based Catalyst as examples.
Layoffs were determined by what role people were performing with the company and making certain that the numbers and combination of staff who remained would still be able to meet the company’s operational needs. Gentile said tenure also played a role in who was laid off, given how many staff were hired to meet a demand that is, for the time being, no longer present.
The news that they were losing their jobs came as a shock to many of those who were laid off.
Just a week before, when asked to address a rumor that Friday Health Plans was laying off up to 80% of its staff, Tracy Faigin, chief marketing and experience officer, told the Valley Courier that “Alamosa is the operations center and we can’t operate without our people in Alamosa…we still need employees to serve all our members” and Friday is “looking forward to a great enrollment and we’ll have a better idea as the open enrollment cut-off date on Jan. 15 draws nearer.”
By his own admission, Gentile said he shared that same Jan. 15 date with employees in Alamosa when, realizing that changes were ahead, he had come to meet with employees and warn them of the company possibly reducing its workforce.
“When I notified staff at that town hall, I included all the factors,” he said. “I talked about rescaling the business plan. I also talked about factors, including open enrollment. That date is a data point and a very significant one that won’t be known until that date, but by no means should that have led to someone’s takeaway that no action would be taken beforehand.”
Gentile also acknowledged the possibility that the same miscommunication happened in his discussions with Faigin.
“I apologize for that,” he said. “It was certainly not our intention to be misleading. I was trying to be transparent and gave a lot of information in that town hall. And if that was the takeaway by some who were there, I will certainly consider that in the future.”
Gentile also addressed the way employees were informed of the layoffs.
“Our goal is to treat people with dignity,” he said. “Our culture means everything to us. It’s our training model and we communicated to our managers that this is going to be emotional, to not immediately close down email accounts, to not walk people to the door, to give them time to gather themselves and to say good-bye.
“If there was a lack of consistency in that, it certainly was not how we intended. We tried to go out of our way to make sure people were treated with empathy. We anticipated the best out of our employees in that difficult time and we got the best out of them.”
When asked if anyone laid off is eligible for rehire Gentile didn’t hesitate.
“Yes, we may come back in a stronger position than before, but I'm certainly not in a position to predict when that might happen and don't want to set any false hopes other than to say these were all great people and I can't wait to get them back,” he said.
Gentile commented on future layoffs.
“We have right-sized our business and this should be it," he said.