Below is the letter that was printed in yesterday’s Tribune, and that has received coverage throughout the State, signed by Mayors and Managers throughout Massachusetts.
A PLEA FOR MUNICIPAL HEALTH INSURANCE REFORM
and Support for Governor Patrick’s Municipal Health Insurance Bill
As has been well reported, health care costs for municipal employees are growing at an unsustainable rate. Finding ways to curb this dramatic growth is absolutely essential to maintaining basic city services. The annual increase in municipal health care costs is robbing money from our schools, public safety efforts, public works projects and other important programs.
Local leaders have been clamoring for municipal health insurance reform for many years as a way to help manage budgets during these fiscally challenging times. With that in mind, we are writing to express our support for legislation proposed by the Governor entitled, “An Act Further Strengthening the Commonwealth’s Partnership with its Municipalities” which aims to provide material and immediate savings to communities facing soaring health insurance costs.
This proposal will require that municipalities and its unions engage in expedited negotiations to establish new health insurance coverage, either by joining the Group Insurance Commission (GIC) or adopting local plans with benefits comparable to those provided by the GIC. If the parties can not reach agreement within the expedited negotiation period, the municipality will have the right, without a union veto, to either join the GIC or adopt the lower cost plans. This represents a multi-million dollar savings to municipalities, helping many communities to avert an out and out budget crisis. And a switch to the GIC will provide local employees with some of the top rated commercial plans in the nation with benefits that are at least as generous as those provided to over 300,000 state and municipal employees and their families. By any measure, employees will continue to receive quality health care at a reasonable price.
For far too long municipalities in Massachusetts have been denied authority to manage and moderate rising health insurance costs. While we have been able to work with our collective bargaining unions on a host of issues, solving the problem of rising employee health care costs has been much more elusive. Now more than ever, providing Mayors and Managers this vital tool is critical to balancing local budgets as we struggle to absorb even further reductions in local aid. Although additional work will be required of the Administration to finalize the regulations, in order to implement the necessary savings by the start of the next fiscal year, it is imperative that the Legislature act swiftly to adopt the proposed measure now. We urge legislators to make municipal health insurance reform their highest priority and quickly approve this measure so that savings can be achieved in Fiscal Year 2012, which begins July 1st.
After several years of mulling over this issue, we need this bill passed so that we can continue providing municipal services at the quality our residents have come to expect, but with the cost savings and efficiencies that taxpayers demand.
Jay Ash, City Manager of Chelsea
Thatcher Kezer, Mayor of Amesbury
Tom Ambrosino, Mayor of Revere
Carolyn Kirk, Mayor of Gloucester
Andrew Bisignani, Town Manager of Saugus
Scott Lang, Mayor of New Bedford
Michael Bonfanti, Mayor of Peabody
Bernard Lynch, City Manager of Lowell
Joseph Curtatone, Mayor of Somerville
William Manzi, Mayor of Methuen
Rob Dolan, Mayor of Melrose
Wayne Marquis, Town Manager of Danvers
Kim Driscoll, Mayor of Salem
Andrew Maylor, Town Admin of Swampscott
Clare Higgins, Mayor of Northampton
William Scanlon, Mayor of Beverly