Protect your voice in municipal health insurance decisions

Tell your legislators that changes made to the state budget in conference committee must protect basic rights of employees to bargain over changes in their health insurance benefits.

The House and Senate have both passed budget proposals and the different versions are now in conference committee. Once a final version is approved, it will go to the governor for his signature on or about July 1. The House version makes no changes to municipal health insurance, but the Senate version makes significant changes. Two of these, in particular, would eviscerate existing employee bargaining rights and must be changed.

The Senate version would: (1) Permit municipalities to unilaterally move all employees into the GIC. (This new proposal was added to the Senate proposal at the eleventh hour.) (2) Municipalities choosing not to enter the GIC may unilaterally make plan design changes to cut costs to a “benchmark” level – that is, a level comparable to the GIC.

In light of the $3 billion budget deficit, declining revenues and cuts in local aid, House and Senate members are under intense pressure by the Massachusetts Municipal Association, mayors and many taxpayers to allow municipalities to shift health insurance costs to employees without having to bargain. We need to be an equally powerful voice to protect employees’ interests and rights.

Please contact your state representative and senator now and urge them to ask conference committee members, Senate President Therese Murray and House Speaker Robert DeLeo not to make any change in the municipal health insurance system unless the Senate proposal is changed to:

  • Eliminate the provision allowing municipalities to transfer employees to the GIC without collective bargaining.
  • Require municipalities to engage in coalition bargaining over plan design changes if they are seeking to reduce costs to a “benchmark” level comparable to the GIC.

In addition, MTA members should know that several provisions in the Senate version are important to retain if changes are made giving municipalities more control over employee health insurance. These are:

(1) A municipality seeking to reduce health insurance costs must adopt Section 19 and bargain with all the employee unions and retirees over how the cost-savings should be shared. At least 25 percent of the savings must go to the municipality and 25 percent to the employees/retirees, with the remaining 50 percent subject to bargaining. If no agreement is reached, the dispute would go to an arbitrator.

(2) For employees moved into the GIC, a contract would be signed forbidding mid-year plan design changes.

(3) Municipalities joining the GIC would be permitted to establish Health Reimbursement Accounts through which employees with high copays and deductibles could seek reimbursements.

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