According to today's Boston Globe, Gov. Patrick released a plan today in which future state and municipal retirees would have to pay $1,000 more a year for health care coverage:

  • Most public ­employees would have to work until age 60, not 55, before they become eligible for health care benefits
  • Employees would have to accrue 20 years of state or ­local service, up from the current 10.
  • Currently, most state and local workers pay 20 percent of their premiums if they have worked for 10 years... under the governor’s plan, they would have to pay 50 percent of their premiums if they retire after 20 years of service.
  • Only after 30 years of service would the government pick up 80 percent of their premiums, leaving them with 20 percent of the cost.

Why is he taking this step? Because "state and local governments cannot support the $40 billion they face in long-term health care costs." Meaning the taxpayers cannot afford this long term liability!

The Globe reports that the governor’s proposal is a result of a commission consisting of labor and retiree groups as well as state and local officials. This should give it a higher likelihood of passing, but it will doubtless still be an uphill slog so if you support it, let your elected representatives know!

1. Call or email the governor and thank him for taking this step to rein in future liabilities on the taxpayers.

2. Contact your state rep AND your state senator and urge them to support the governor's retiree health care cost reform package!
 
 
What is the lesson learned from the WIsconsin election result? That Democratic leaders should not assume that their voters are knee-jerk pro-public sector union.  17% of pro Scott Walker voters said in exit polling that they support President Obama, but only 6% of anti-Scott Walker voters said they are supporting Mitt Romney. 

Deval Patrick and Democratic House and Senate leaders in Massachusetts showed with their support for municipal health care reform last year that it is possible for Democrats to do right by the public (in that case, schoolchildren) even when it means bucking the unions. If Democrats did more of that, they'd probably win over more voters.
 
 
This morning's Globe op-ed by Scot Lehigh: "It's a battle some doubted would ever be waged, let alone won. But now, municipal health reform, which lets cities and towns bring local health care plans into line with state offerings, is paying big dividends."

- First-year savings expected to exceed $100 million
- Savings are being shared with local employees
- House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Brian Dempsey deserve a lot of credit for their political courage in pushing the law through

Has your city or town taken advantage of the new law?
 
 
__According to this January 26 Brockton Enterprise article, Brockton is considering taking advantage of the new municipal health care law passed last year (with the help of Voters Count) to negotiate less costly health care benefits for city workers.

"When the City Council’s Finance Committee meets on Feb. 6, its  members will be sitting between a rock and a hard place. On one side is Mayor Linda Balzotti, who wants to save the city millions of dollars by adopting the state’s municipal health care reform law.    On the other side are city unions are looking to protect their collective bargaining rights over health benefits."

The benefits to the city are huge: "If the city had the insurance reforms in place for the current fiscal year, it would have saved about $4 million in premiums, while employees and retirees would have saved $2 million, according to Balzotti." 

$4 million is a lot of money that Brockton could then apply toward schools, police and firefighters.

"She said saving $4 million next budget year – 25 percent of which would have to be returned in the first year to the employees hardest-hit by the insurance changes – would be a “huge” help in balancing the city’s budget."
 
In addition, "By switching to less expensive plans for current and retired workers, the city would also be decreasing the un-funded health benefits it owes its current and future retirees, currently valued at $693 million over the next 30 years."


 
 
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.
 
 
The Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation just released an analysis showing just much damage the enhanced retiree benefits in the Senate Budget's version of municipal health reform could do. The MTF identified 50 communities that would be affected, but say that with more analysis, probably as many as 100 towns and cities will face increased retiree healthcare costs with this measure. Some communities the MTF studied would be stuck with hundreds of thousands of dollars in new costs.

This is all the more reason to call the members of the Conference Committee now and urge them not to pass this measure!

Download the report here.
 
 
We are nearing the finish line for Municipal Health Care reform that will save taxpayers $100 million a year. But we need your help now.

Currently a Conference Committee is molding the two budgets--the House version and the Senate version--into one final budget, which will go to Governor Patrick in July, who will veto parts he chooses and eventually sign it.

We need calls and emails to these Conference Committee members to urge them to craft a policy with real savings.

There are significant differences between the House and Senate budgets in terms of potential for savings (see our chart - scroll to bottom).

Most significantly, the Senate Budget includes a series of amendments that will seriously hurt our chances at reform.

One provision mandates that towns equalize the contribution ratios of active employees and retirees (Amendment 65, Section 22e). This could put a huge burden back on municipalities as retirees' health care costs grow (read a recent opinion piece in the Globe). The MMA says this measure "could be prohibitively expensive," and is lobbying lawmakers not to include it. And this isn't the only measure that could hinder reform; the Senate budget included several last-minute changes and complications. Read the MMA's extensive letter to the conference committee against these measures here, or their action alert here.

Here is who to call/email, and below is what to say (calls to those in RED are higher priority)

Senate President Therese Murray: 617-722-1500, therese.murray@masenate.gov
Brian Dempsey (D-Haverhill): 617-722-2990, Brian.Dempsey@massmail.state.ma.us
Steven Kulik (D- Worthington): 617-722-2380, stephen.kulik@mahouse.gov
Vinny deMacedo (R-Plymouth):  617-722-2100, vinny@demacedo.org
Stephen Brewer (D-Barre): 617-722-1540, stephen.brewer@masenate.gov
Steven Baddour (D-Methuen): 617-722-1604, steven.baddour@masenate.gov
Michael Knapik (R-Westfield): 617-722-1415, michael.knapik@masenate.gov

  • Give cities and towns the same plan design authority the state has to determine health care plans for their employees without a negotiating window, and without a review board.
  • Make reform mandatory. Local option means many cities & towns won't get reform & their taxpayers will continue to overpay.
  • Don't pass the provision to equalize premium contribution ratios between retirees and active employees. It will only drive up spending for municipalities that desperately need relief.
  • Reject extra measures that will delay and complicate reform. The stakes are too high.
  • Voters are paying attention, and will hold their legislators accountable on this issue.
 
 
Very interesting from yesterday's Boston Globe: When House members voted to reform municipal health care benefits, union leaders went on the warpath.

"But now, as the Senate prepares to debate its bill, unions have issued a conciliatory press release, and tried to put a positive spin on the developments.  The changed tactics reflect shifting political ground and a tacit acknowledgement that their earlier hardball tactics did not work in an economy that has hit city and town budgets hard."

What this means is that municipal health care reform has an excellent chance of actually getting passed within the next month.

If you haven't already contacted your state senator, now is the time!! Literally it could be any minute so today or tomorrow we need you to make that call or email!