Somehow I missed this, and it seems rather under-reported, but this is a big deal: DiMasi is saying (again) that municipal leaders should have “the sole decision” in deciding whether muni employees enter the Group Insurance Commission, the state's negotiator of health care plans for its employees:
Last year, the Legislature passed a bill to allow municipalities to enroll their workers in the state health care system, the Group Insurance Commission.
Instead of premium increases as high as 20 to 30 percent, the GIC has seen single-digit percent increases on average the last five years.
Cities and towns can benefit from this by joining the GIC and they should.
In addition, we passed pension reform which, combined with the health care reform, could have saved cities and towns hundreds of millions of dollars.
Unfortunately, we have not seen cities and towns take advantage of these reforms.
I believe that municipal leaders want to join GIC because they also believe that they can provide savings and good health care for municipal workers.
I also believe that municipal leaders should have the sole decision in determining whether their communities join GIC and deliver on the promise of property tax relief on the local level.
Therefore, I believe it may be time to change the law to allow municipal leaders alone to make this decision.
Run by the formidable Dolores Mitchell, the GIC has continually seen smaller increases in premiums over the last few years, even while health care absolutely destroys municipal budgets all over the state. And last year, Gov. Patrick supported a measure in his MPA that would allow municipal employees to enter the GIC, but only if 70% of the employees agreed. Pretty timid on behalf of the Governor, I thought.
Considering the Commonwealth's fiscal condition, we simply don't have the luxury of being politically sensitive to the muni employees' unions. The firefighters (and others) will hate it, perhaps because of less generous cost-sharing structures, and at least partly because Blue Cross/Blue Shield is not offered in the GIC.
But come on — many of these employees are going to get laid off if health care premiums aren't brought to heel. And BCBS knows where its bread is buttered; how could it not follow all those customers into an arrangement with Ms. Mitchell?
Get it done, Governor.
Update: Amesbury News calls this a “crumb” for cities and towns, but nonetheless a welcome one.