The House Ways and Means budget includes a relatively strong form of the Massachusetts Municipal Association’s plan design proposal.
Municipalities will be able to adopt plan design powers by vote of the Board of Selectmen or the City Council — this adoption provision is still subject to some modification and clarification.
Once a municipality adopts the section, plan design changes will work as follows:
- The mayor or selectmen of the municipality will be able to change the municipality’s health care plan design or to enter the Group Insurance Commission without collective bargaining.
- However, if the mayor or selectmen adopt a new plan design other than the GIC, the plan must have copays and deductibles no greater than the GIC.
- Employees will automatically receive 10% of the savings from the new plan (in addition to the savings that they may receive through lower premiums).
- Employees will continue to have the right to bargain collectively over the share of the plan premiums that they will pay.
With the rules requiring parity with the GIC, municipal employees will be assured of having health care plans at least as good as state employees (including state legislators). They will, however, retain greater collective bargaining rights than state employees — state employees do not have the right to bargain over premium share.
This proposal is very much subject to further negotiation with the Senate — the Senate has not settled its position on this issue.
I am prepared to support this plan — it is consistent with my standing position on the GIC issue. While most municipal unions have voiced opposition to this plan, one thing is clear: It will save municipal jobs — local health care costs have been chewing up most of the increased aid that the state has been able to provide through the last decade.