Annual Insurance Hearing Draws Retirees

Annual Insurance Hearing Draws Retirees
Large Crowd Attends GIC's Annual Public Hearing

FEBRUARY 1, 2012: Over 100 employees and retirees attended today’s annual public hearing of the Commonwealth’s Group Insurance Commission (GIC) held in Minihan Hall at the Lindemann Center.

Dolores Mitchell, Executive Director of the GIC, presented an extensive update of all commission activities and an estimated projection of future needs and costs.

Mitchell started by pointing out that the Commonwealth could be under some pressure from the added costs of Federal health care reform.

With the additional requirement that dependents up to age 26 be entitled to GIC coverage, this could be up to 5,000 new members. The GIC’s budget request for FY 2013 has increased by $35 million over the FY 2012 state budget, “We have asked for Federal help.” Mitchell said.

Some 7,700 new members have been added to GIC coverage by cities and towns having voted to join the state agency. With Chapter 69 enacted by the Legislature last year, it is unknown how many additional municipalities will join. “Lowell and Monson will shortly be joining with us, and we do anticipate several additional members, but it’s unknown how many,” said Mitchell.

Limited Network Popular

After last year the GIC encouraged members to join or switch their coverage to a limited network. The number of enrollees in their type plan has increased from 19% to 31%.

“We’ll continue to focus on limited network plans,” said Mitchell. “There are some great benefits with lower premiums in limited provider networks.” GIC data indicates that limited network premiums tend to be 20% less than wider network counterparts.

Mitchell cautioned that members should keep in mind that the state enrollee premium contributions cannot be determined until the FY ’13 budget is finalized.

The largest number of those attending were retirees, mostly state but a growing number of local government retirees.

There were individual complaints from members who feel the co-payments and deductibles are too high. “My co-payments are killing my budget,” said one attendee who has an exceptionally large number of medical problems.

By far the most common complaint was the Commonwealth’s failure to contribute toward retirees’ Medicare premiums. “At one time, the state contributed 85 or 90 percent of the Part B cost. Why has the state stopped making these reimbursements?”  asked retiree David Rachlin, a former Taunton State Hospital retiree.

This payment stopped 10 years ago under then-Governor Jane Swift and has never been included in any budget since that time. “It’s a $60 million price tag,” said Association President Ralph White.

“We’ve tried for a lesser amount, a partial reimbursement such as what some cities and towns have done in reaching an agreement with their PEC (Public Employee Committee). Local retirees on their PEC have had some good luck recently.”

Among Retirees Attending