Selectmen adopt legislation that will give the town more control over health care costs

Selectmen late last month adopted a state law that will give them more leverage in negotiating health care costs with the unions. It’s a move that could save the town upwards of $500K, but selectmen said they don’t plan to implement any changes right away.

Explains the Metrowest Daily News:

Chapter 32B, sections 21 through 23 of Massachusetts General Law — formally called Chapter 69 of the Acts of 2011 — allows towns and cities to restructure the design of insurance plan features, like co-pays and deductibles, to levels commensurate with those offered by the state’s Group Insurance Commission.

The law also allows towns and cities to switch employees’ health insurance into GIC if they can show that in doing so they would save at least 5 percent more than they would by making plan design changes.

“It means at some point in time you will be changing health insurance co-pays,” Town Administrator Jean Kitchen told selectmen. “It doesn’t mean tomorrow, but it puts the unions on notice that indeed you are serious about this and either you will go to a comparable lookalike plan, or something in between, or the GIC.”

Specific language in the teachers union contract prevents selectmen from making any changes until the contract is up for renewal in two years. Saying they didn’t want to create inequity between the unions, selectmen said they won’t look to do any plan redesign until the changes could be applied to all contracts.

As you might imagine, the question of whether to adopt the Chapter 32B statues attracted much attention from town employees, with many filling the Hearing Room seats when the board discussed the issue in December and again in January.

Most union members appeared to oppose the move.

“I don’t think we need a state statute to continue our negotiations in good faith,” teacher’s union co-president Patricia Lally told selectmen in January. “We have had a good relationship with the town.”

You can read more about the selectmen’s decision, and its implications for the town and town employees, in this MWDN article.

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