Over 200 Attended Municipal Health Forum

Focus On New Municipal Insurance Law

FEBRUARY 14, 2012: Association members were among the over 200 attendees at a recent forum on the new Municipal Health Insurance (MHI) law, that was held at Boston Fire Local 718’s Florian Hall in Dorchester. They gathered together as the retiree designees on the Public Employee Committee (PEC) for their community or school district.

Since the MHI’s enactment last year, the Association has designated over 150 retiree designees across the state. That number continues to grow, almost on a daily basis, as communities prepare their Fiscal ’13 budgets, beginning this July1.

“It was pleasure to meet with so many members, serving on PECs, and thank them personally for volunteering to serve on this very important committee,” comments Association Executive Board member Dan Turco. “It also provided me with an excellent opportunity to learn firsthand how the new law is working - or not working - at the local level.”

During the forum, attendees heard from Dolores Mitchell, executive director of the state’s Group Insurance Commission (GIC), concerning the state’s health insurance program. Readers may recall that one of the two options, available to local officials under the MHI law, is joining the GIC, the other being making plan design changes (i.e., copayments, deductibles, tiers, etc.) in the existing local insurance plans.

Among the concerns about the GIC, raised by the attendees, was the state agency’s controversial decision in 2009 to increase copayments and deductibles in mid-year, that impacted local retirees whose communities had just agreed to join the GIC. It should be noted that a supplemental budget, recently filed by Governor Patrick, includes a provision that would prohibit such increases except in extraordinary cases, following a declaration of a state wide fiscal emergency made by the governor.

In addition to the presentation by the GIC’s Dolores Mitchell, members and attendees heard from a panel of union and local officials who have been engaged in implementing the MHI law. This session was highlighted by a lively question and answer segment, during which others, in the audience, could describe not only their positive but also negative experiences when negotiating under the new law.

“I came to the forum with other members of our (Framingham) PEC, and I’m glad I did,” reports Sue Wallace, who has been serving for several years as the retiree designee on the committee, which is among the state’s oldest, and also co-chairs it. “We’ve decided not to join the GIC, but to make changes in our existing plans.”

“It was worth the long ride from Orleans,” claims Paul Tassi, our retiree designee from that town’s PEC. “I learned a lot that I can take back with me as we move forward under the new law in my town.”