Municipal health insurance reform has finally made it into law! As promised, Governor Patrick sent his final changes on the budget back to the legislature, and both houses voted quickly to pass the final legislation (read it here). The legislation passed in the House 150-2, and in the Senate 37-0 (see how your legislator voted here).


 
 
Governor Patrick announced yesterday that he will file budget amendments regarding municipal health care reform on Monday. Read his statement here.

According to the Globe, Governor Patrick and the leaders of the Senate and House have agreed on a few changes, which Patrick will announce as an amendment on Monday and the legislature will most likely approve expeditiously (read the article here). The compromise seems to have broad support from the legislature, unions and municipal groups (You can read the MMA's statement in support of the measures here). Governor Patrick says the changes are meant to "enrich labor’s role in that process without diminishing the substance of the reform."

The changes make it necessary for municipalities to show that switching employees to the GIC would save 5% more than local plan design. They also increase the size of the cost mitigation fund intended to help subscribers with higher costs, and extend the moratorium on increasing costs for retirees to three years rather than two.
 
 
It's finally here! The Conference Committee has put out the final version of the fiscal year 2012 budget, and it includes municipal health care reform measures you pushed so hard for! The final budget includes some elements of the House's version and some of the Senate's. Governor Patrick has just a few more days to read the budget and sign and veto.

Here's what the final version includes:
  • The city council or a town's board of selectment would have to vote to adopt plan design, but they would only have to vote once.
  • The municipal executive can propose to move employees to the GIC or propose a plan with copays and deductibles no more costly to the employee than the median GIC plan. Then the municipality must provide documentation of the estimated first-year savings.
  • The executive explains the proposal, the estimated savings and the plan for cost mitigation to a public employee committee (PEC) made up of a representative of each union and a retiree representative.
  • There is a 30-day window in which the municipality and the PEC negotiate the changes; a majority vote of the PEC is required for agreement.
  • If no agreement is reached after 30 days, a three-person panel (a labor representative, a municipal representative and an "impartial" third-party) considers the situation and will be required to approve the changes or transfer, as long as they meet the GIC benchmark.
  • The panel has the authority to review the estimated savings and the cost mitigation plan, and if they decide the shared savings is not enough, to require greater savings, although not more than 25%. (The obligation to share savings is only for the first year.)
  • All eligible retirees are required to move to Medicare.
The measure equalizing employee and retiree contributions was dropped, thanks to citizen efforts like yours! There is, however, a two-year moratorium on raising retiree contribution rates. The savings are still estimated to be around $100 annually. You can read the Massachusetts Municipal Association summary of the measures here.

Governor Patrick has said he is undecided on whether they give enough of a roll to unions, and may propose an amendment himself. Read about it here. A coalition of civic and business groups signed a statement urging Governor Patrick to sign the bill as is (including Associated Industries of Massachusetts, The Boston Foundation, the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, and others). Express your support of the bill as it is by calling or emailing the Office of the Governor.