This Scot Lehigh column from a couple days ago emphasizes what we pointed out a few weeks ago - that when it comes to municipal health care reform, Charlie Baker is right and Deval Patrick is not:

"Patrick has shied away from one essential reform to reduce local costs: Giving municipalities the unrestricted right to join the state’s Group Insurance Commission, which provides health insurance plans for state employees, or granting them the same authority the state has to make adjustments in the design of health plans. Local unions currently have virtual veto power over their town’s ability to join the GIC, and any change in co-pays and other terms must be negotiated with those same unions.That reform would save $100 million in year one, and a lot more thereafter. Some of the savings would result from the lower rates the GIC enjoys because of its bargaining clout, some through raising uncommonly low co-pays and deductibles.

"But though Patrick has proposed weakening the union veto, he does not support giving local officials sole authority either to join the GIC or adjust plan features. The unions must have a place at the table, he insists.

"Why that stance? Well, preserving their generous benefits is a vital concern for labor. Having already strained his labor ties by pursuing other reforms, Patrick simply hasn’t been willing to seize the local budget-busting bull by its health care horns.
“I would have been out there campaigning . . . on behalf of this issue, building a case for it, creating a context where the Legislature would be compelled to do something about this,’’ Baker says."


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