Healey investigates whether insurance changes for state workers violated meeting law

By Priyanka Dayal McCluskey GLOBE STAFF  JANUARY 25, 2018

By Priyanka Dayal McCluskey GLOBE STAFF  JANUARY 25, 2018


Attorney General Maura Healey’s office is investigating whether a state commission that made a surprise decision to eliminate some popular health plans for state employees violated Massachusetts open meeting law — casting doubt on the validity of the commission’s decision.


Healey’s office said Thursday that the state’s Group Insurance Commission, which manages health benefits for about 442,000 state and municipal employees, retirees, and their families may have violated the law at its Jan. 18 meeting, where the commission took the controversial vote limiting health plan options.


If investigators in the attorney general’s office find that a public body has failed to provide sufficient notice of a meeting, they could nullify any action taken at the meeting.


The Open Meeting Law requires that notices for public meetings be displayed in an understandable format and must list the topics that are expected to be discussed. “The list of topics shall have sufficient specificity to reasonably advise the public of the issues to be discussed at the meeting,” according to state regulations.


The agenda for the commission’s Jan. 18 meeting lists “procurement” as the fourth item for discussion. It also says “Medical/Behavioral Health Decision – VOTE.”


At that meeting, the commission — whose members are appointed by the governor — voted to eliminate commercial health plans from three popular Massachusetts-based insurers: Tufts Health Plan, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, and Fallon Health. The change means some 200,000 people will have to move to other coverage plans under three lesser-known insurers.


The Jan. 18 vote enraged many public workers and labor unions that represent them, who said they were completely blindsided by the decision.


Governor Charlie Baker on Wednesday acknowledged the rollout of the changes was flawed and created confusion. He said commission officials “need to take seriously the blowback.”


House leaders, meanwhile said they’re establishing a special committee to examine the state commission’s actions, and senators are planning to hold an oversight hearing.


The commission has so far defended its process, saying that the concept of reducing health insurer options had been discussed for several months. Officials at the commission said they selected and eliminated health plans based on a scoring system that took into account several factors, including costs. They expect their changes to save $20.8 million in the first year.



Priyanka Dayal McCluskey can be reached at priyanka.mccluskey@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @priyanka_dayal.

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