Prohibits Mid-Year Copayment/Deductible Increases

MAY 2012 VOICE: Following through on a commitment made during the Municipal Health Care Reform debate last summer, Governor Deval Patrick has signed into law a provision that prohibits the state’s Group Insurance Commission (GIC) from mid-year increases in copayments or deductibles.

The controversy arose in February 2010, when the GIC voted for mid-year copayment increases and introduced an annual deductible to help cover that year’s budget deficit. Most upsetting to retirees and employees was the new $250 per person annual deductible ($500 for a couple, $750 per family).

Retirees, enrolled in Medicare A&B, are not subject to the GIC’s $250 annual deductible, but rather have a $35 annual deductible under the Medicare program.

While any increase in fees would be met with apprehension, the fact that it came eight months into the fiscal year and following the new enrollment of thousands of municipal retirees and employees into the GIC cut particularly deep.

“In many cases, local retirees and employees had been sold on the GIC on the basis that it would not only save money for the community, but also provide good  benefits for the enrollees at a stable cost. So you can imagine the uproar when the out-of-pocket costs suddenly jumped just eight months into FY11,” recalls Association Legislative Liaison Shawn Duhamel. “Having a legal restriction on mid-year changes from taking place goes a long way toward easing the fears of retirees.

“It is one thing to know about changes upfront, but something else entirely to be surprised mid-way through the contract year. We are very thankful to the Governor and Legislative Leadership for working with us and the unions to correct this problem.”