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HEALTHCARE COMMISSION ENDORSES MASSIVE $15-$20 BILLION REFORM

Retiree Protections Include Contribution Rate “Freeze”

DECEMBER 20, 2012: Following nine months of lengthy meetings, detailed analysis and intense negotiations the Special Commission on Retiree Healthcare completed its work today with an 11-1 vote to endorse a proposal that, if passed into law, will save Massachusetts taxpayers at least $15-$20 billion over the next thirty years.

Pension bonds risky for state and local governments-Moody's

Municipal bonds that states and local governments use to pay for some of their public pension obligations rarely improve the issuer's credit quality, Moody's Investors Service said on Tuesday.

"If bond proceeds substitute for annual contributions to pension plans or are used to pay pensioners, we consider it a deficit borrowing and would view the financing as credit negative," Marcia Van Wagner, the senior Moody's analyst who wrote the report, said in a statement.

Medicare beneficiaries reach $5 billion in drug savings

Kelly Kennedy, USA Today

December 3. 2012 - Since passage of the health care overhaul two years ago, 5.8 million Medicare patients have saved $5 billion from prescription drug discounts, and the government can now predict lower health care costs based on increased use of these cheaper drugs.

STATE RETIREMENT BOARD MOVES TO NEW HOME

STATE RETIREMENT BOARD MOVES TO NEW HOME

NOVEMBER 26, 2012: It was a busy Thanksgiving weekend for the staff of the State Board of Retirement who were engaged in the process of moving to their new home at 1 Winter Street in downtown Boston.

WINCHESTER RETIREE HEALTH INSURANCE UNDER ATTACK

NOVEMBER 19, 2012: Winchester retirees won’t be thinking kindly of the town’s board of selectmen this Thanksgiving after reading a letter from Town Manager Richard Howard about the future of their health insurance. That’s because the letter reported on the selectmen’s unanimous approval of insurance changes, presented to them by Howard earlier this month, that are aimed solely at dramatically increasing the health care costs for retirees. Howard was the mayor of Malden for approximately 17 years before being named to Wilmington’s top job by the selectmen.

MEDICARE ANNOUNCES $5 PART B INCREASE

NOVEMBER 19, 2012: Medicare has announced that the standard Medicare Part B premium will increase by $5 or approximately 5% in 2013.  The increase sets the new monthly Part B premium at $104.90.

This represents a smaller increase than had been projected by health care economists, who believed the increase would register at close to $9 a month. In 2012, Medicare Part B enrollees paid $99.90 a month.

With Social Security benefits set to increase by 1.7% in 2013, the $5 Medicare increase represents nearly 25% of the average COLA.

Medicare Premiums to Rise by $5 a Month

Medicare premiums will rise by $5 a month next year, the government said Friday. That is less than expected, but enough to consume about a fourth of a typical retiree’s cost-of-living raise in Social Security payments next year. Marilyn Tavenner, the acting administrator of Medicare, said the new “Part B” premium for outpatient care would be $104.90 a month. In most cases, it is deducted from a beneficiary’s monthly Social Security payment. The government had projected a premium increase of as much as $9 a month for 2013, but health care inflation has remained modest.

Easthampton Postpones Insurance Action

NOVEMBER 8, 2012: Last night, the Easthampton City Council postponed any action on Mayor Tautznik’s proposal to adopt Sections 21-23 under which the mayor wants to negotiate a new insurance contract. The Council instructed Melissa Zawadzki, the city’s finance director, to provide the cost of entering into an insurance agreement with available plans that are available. She will then report back to the Council.

EASTHAMPTON EYES INSURANCE REFORMS

NOVEMBER 7, 2012: Easthampton – The nine-member Easthampton City Council will meet tonight, November 7, and vote on a proposal by Mayor Michael Tautznik to accept Sections 21-23 of Chapter 32B for purposes of negotiating a new health insurance agreement with the city’s employees and retirees.

It is reported that 2 members of the Council’s 3-member Subcommittee on Insurance are opposed to accepting Sections 21-23, while the chairman is in favor of acceptance. Sections 21-23 were a major component of Chapter 69, the Municipal Healthcare Reform law passed in 2011.

BIG WEEK FOR HEALTHCARE ON BEACON HILL ENDS

GIC & Special Commission Meetings Held

OCTOBER 26, 2012: On Tuesday, the Special Commission on Retiree Healthcare held its 5th meeting in six months, as it began to outline its report to be issued by December 20, 2012.

The Commission’s legislative mandate is to explore the means to reduce state and municipal retiree unfunded healthcare liabilities. Actuaries have projected the state’s 30-year unfunded liability at $16 billion, while municipal liabilities come in at $30 billion.

DISABILITY PANEL HOLDS PUBLIC HEARINGS

OCTOBER 19, 2012: Disability pensions, always a cutting-edge source of press articles, mostly negative, was the subject under discussion at a public hearing of the Special Commission on Disability Pensions in Worcester yesterday.

This was the second such hearing this week. This first was held on Tuesday the 16th at the State House.

Yesterday’s hearing, which was held at the UMass Medical School was opened by a full-scale presentation by leaders of the 4,500 member Mass. Correction Officers Federation Union (MCOFU).

GIC TO SAVE $1.29 BILLION OVER 5 YEARS

Cost Containment RFP Seeks To Reshape Health Plans

OCTOBER 11, 2012: Phase 2 of Health Care Reform is now well underway in Massachusetts, with the state’s Group Insurance Commission (GIC) delivering the opening salvo in the battle over healthcare cost containment.

How Insurers Can Help

How Insurers Can Help

New York Times Editorial

October 1, 2012: Private insurance companies should be leading the way in the struggle to control health care costs. They know about every contact a patient has with the health care system and can see how much is wasteful or redundant. By altering the way they pay doctors and hospitals, they can potentially push providers to reduce costs, improve quality and even transform the whole culture of American medicine.

HUGH TURNOUT AT ANNUAL MEETINGS IN RANDOLPH AND PITTSFIELD

HUGH TURNOUT AT ANNUAL MEETINGS IN RANDOLPH AND PITTSFIELD

SEPTEMBER 21, 2012: Members turned out, by the hundreds, at the Annual Meetings, first in Randolph and then in Pittsfield for those living in Western Mass. “While the western meeting has traditionally been held in Pittsfield, this was our fourth year at Lantana’s in Randolph,” according to Association Meeting Coordinator Leo Delaney.

PENSION DISABILITY COMMISSION CONVENES

PENSION DISABILITY COMMISSION CONVENES

Discards Press Criticism

SEPTEMBER 5, 2012: There were no fireworks as the Special Commission on Disability Pensions held its initial meeting at the State House yesterday.

With periodic press criticism of disability pensions, most recently last month’s series of articles in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette focusing on the “need to look closely at the criteria for allowing public safety personnel to retire with tax-free disability pensions,” there was concern by employee unions of a possible “witch hunt” on Beacon Hill.

DISABILITY PANEL TO CONVENE

Association Holds Seat on Commission

AUGUST 10, 2012: At long last, the Special Commission on Disability will be holding its initial meeting. This coming September 7 has been scheduled for a meeting date of the 12 Commission members at the State House.

Health bill signed amid hopes for $200b in savings

Bill builds on law passed when GOP candidate Mitt Romney was governor

Boston Globe
August 7, 2012
By Michael Levenson

Six years after Governor Mitt Romney required every resident to obtain health insurance, Governor Deval Patrick signed a law that many consider the second phase of that groundbreaking experiment: trying to rein in the state’s health costs, which are among the highest in the nation.

LEGISLATURE PASSES HEALTHCARE PAYMENT REFORM BILL

Will Impact GIC & Municipal Insurance Plans

AUGUST 3, 2012: As the formal 2011-2012 Legislative Session drew to a close on Tuesday, House and Senate negotiators completed work on a long anticipated bill aimed at curbing the rise in health care costs over the next 15-years. The bill, which now awaits the approval of Governor Deval Patrick, is estimated to save Massachusetts citizens some $200 billion over fifteen years.

FORMAL LEGISLATIVE SESSION WINDS DOWN

Major Issues To Be Addressed

JULY 30, 2012: As formal activity in the 2011-2012 Legislative Session draws to a close this week, a flurry of activity on Beacon Hill will occur to resolve several major issues. Paramount among the remaining bills is a House/Senate Conference Committee report on Healthcare Payment Reform.

HEALTHCARE COMMISSION MEETS

Proposals Begin To Take Shape

JULY 18, 2012: The Special Commission on Retiree Healthcare met for more than two hours Wednesday morning in an effort to develop a list of potential reform measures to place before an actuary for cost analysis.

RETIREE HEALTHCARE COMMISSION TO MEET

Reform Proposals Taking Shape

JULY 16, 2012: The Special Commission on Retiree Healthcare will enter the next phase of its deliberations this Wednesday, July 18th, when it convenes its third meeting in as many months.

Comprised of 11 members, the Commission’s purpose is to study and investigate both the long-term and ongoing cost of public retiree healthcare. The Commission is then to file a report with the Legislature by November 30, detailing its findings and making recommendations for further reforms.

Blue Cross plan shows reduction in spending

By Liz Kowalczyk
Globe Staff  

July 11, 2012

The largest private-sector effort to tame medical spending in Massachusetts appears to be getting results, as doctors who agreed to work on a budget have cut costs by using less-expensive imaging and lab companies and expanding office hours to reduce emergency room use.

State officials say new law has saved more than $175m in health insurance premiums for municipalities, school districts

July 11, 2012

By Martin Finucane, Globe Staff

Massachusetts officials said today that a new law designed to help municipalities and school districts reduce their health insurance costs has saved more than $175 million in premium costs for 127 municipalities and districts.

Superintendents circumvent state pension law

By Deirdre Fernandes
Globe Staff  
July 07, 2012

By seeking and winning salary ­increases, school superintendents across the state have maneuvered around a new law aimed at closing a loophole that had allowed employees to boost their pensions by counting fringe benefits as part of their salary.

GOVERNOR APPROVES RETIREE BUDGET AMENDMENTS

3% State & Teacher COLA On $13k Base Included

JULY 9, 2012: On Sunday, Governor Patrick signed the $32.6 billion FY13 state budget into law. Contained within the budget is a new 3% State & Teacher COLA, a minimum survivor pension increase for disability retirees’ survivors and access to the Group Insurance Commission’s retiree dental plan for municipal retirees insured under the state plan.