ROGOFF WANTS COURT TO OK INSURANCE PAYMENTS PRIOR TO FINAL DEAL
Alaska Dispatch News employees may be looking for individual health insurance policies in the Obamacare marketplace soon.
Either that or they should just plan to stay healthy during the newspaper’s bankruptcy proceedings, which may take a few weeks.
Rogoff, through the Alaska Dispatch News LLC, is asking U.S. Bankruptcy Court this Thursday to allow her to pay the past-due health insurance covering the newspaper’s 212 employees. The hearing is at 2 pm.
Premera Blue Cross is withholding payment on any claims until the Dispatch gets caught up, according to documents and at last count about $262,557 is owed by the newspaper to the insurance provider for both July and August. Right now, Premera is paying for pharmaceuticals only.
“Employee morale has suffered significantly due to Premera not processing medical claims other than pharmacy benefits,” Rogoff’s attorneys wrote to the court. The past due amount is part of a plan to sell the newspaper and declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy, a plan that Rogoff is seeking approval for from the court on Aug. 21.
But on Thursday she is simply asking for special dispensation to pay insurance payments with borrowed funds from the Binkley Company LLC.
Rogoff is also asking the court to approve her payment to Liberty Mutual, which carries her general liability insurance. The company is owed $10,227.75 for August. Without such payment, the ADN would need to close quickly.
The publisher also owes Berkshire Hathaway for July and August for workers compensation insurance; the July 26 payment of $26,733.68 is in arrears.
The court must decide if Rogoff can accept a bridge loan from the Binkley Company so it can pay these insurance bills, without which the newspaper will stop operating, or if the proceedings must wait for the full bankruptcy hearing later this month. The Binkley Company is attempting to buy the paper during the bankruptcy process.
Creditors are expected to crowd the courtroom on Thursday and plead their own case to the judge — that their workers, too, deserve to have their insurance paid, and that Rogoff’s workers should not take precedence over the needs of her other creditors.
They will also likely argue that she has enough personal wealth to pay the insurance, should she choose to sell some of her extensive art collection or liquidate her other properties. She still flies back and forth to Halibut Cove with the help of a private pilot, they’ll likely argue, so she has money somewhere.
The staff of the ADN losing its health insurance may not be everyone’s biggest concern right now — it appears that if the newspaper is to continue at all past the next payday, it will need to be smaller in size and operate with a far-leaner staff than today. That means layoffs are almost certain under the direction of the interim publisher, Jerry Grilly, who is leading the reorganization and stabilization of the newspaper.