George Eastman may not have been a father, but to the residents of Rochester, New York, the principal founder of Eastman Kodak was a doting uncle. In addition to donating millions of dollars to Rochester-area schools and hospitals, Eastman reportedly paid to remove the tonsils of every child in town. Even after his death in 1932, his company looked after of its employees and retirees. For example, Kodak refused to use its size to negotiate for cheaper medical care for its Rochester employees. If it had, most small businesses in the area would have likely faced higher insurance rates and the prospect of eliminating health benefits for their employees entirely. Only about seven percent of Rochester residents do not have health insurance today, compared with fifteen percent nationally.
That may change, however. Faced with growing foreign competition and demands for higher returns, last summer Kodak threatened to desert its long-standing approach to buying insurance and encouraged its 44,000 retirees to join a health plan that excluded two high-priced hospitals.