Selectmen back off Medicare plan, but increase retiree contribution

Voicing concern over the impact it would have on seniors, selectmen last week decided not to move ahead with a plan to require all town retirees to adopt Medicare. While they acknowledged that some retirees would save money under the plan — and the town would save an estimated $170K — selectmen said they weren’t willing to make the change this year.

One change selectmen were willing to make was to increase current retirees’ share of their health care costs from 20 percent to 25 percent. Selectmen voted unanimously to increase the contribution, bringing retirees in line with other town employees.

Selectman Bill Boland said the decision to increase the retiree contribution to 25 percent was one reason why he voted against moving to Medicare. “I have a hard time hitting them twice,” he said.

While all municipal workers and retirees will now pay 25 percent of their health care plan, Boland noted that teachers pay only 20 percent.

“We’re pushing the schools hard to have their employees pay 25 percent of their health care costs just like municipal employees,” Boland said. “We’re hopeful that in their negotiations the school will go to 25 percent.”

A new contract with teachers is currently under negotiation, but no details have yet been released.

Boland said the state is considering requiring all municipal retirees to adopt Medicare under its Section 18 regulations, which would force the town’s hand on the issue. Under town regulations, future town retirees are already required to enroll in a supplemental Medicare plan, but current retirees are not.

If selectmen had decided to move ahead with the plan to require current retirees to adopt Medicare, it would have been put to a vote at town meeting next month. Even if approved by town meeting, the change would not have gone into effect until 2012, so the town would not have realized any of the cost savings in the upcoming fiscal year.

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