Massachusetts Should Be Able To Join State Health Insurance Program Without Unions' Permission
Massachusetts municipalities should be allowed to bypass negotiationswith labor unions to join the state's health insurance program,according to a joint report released on Monday by the Boston Municipal Research Bureau and the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, the Boston Globe reports. Gov. Deval Patrick (D) last month signed a law that grants municipalities permission to join the state's Group Insurance Commission, which would allow them to use the program's negotiating power for better rates and flexibility.
Accordingto the report, municipalities could save $100 million in health costsin fiscal year 2009 by joining the state program. Health care costs formunicipal employees increased by 63% between FY 2001 and FY 2005, whilemunicipal budgets increased by 15%, according to the report. The lawrequires the municipalities to receive permission from labor unions,but the report contends that receiving permission from the unions wouldprevent municipalities from meeting the Oct. 1 deadline to notify thestate of participation.
Several union officials on Monday saidthey should not be eliminated from the decision process on whether tojoin the state program.
Michael Widmer, president of thefoundation, defended the recommendation, saying, "I understand thepolitical difficulty of that suggestion, but there are no easy answersto the local health care dilemma of escalating costs, and while this isa good first step, we're concerned that it doesn't go far enough andthat not very many communities will take advantage of it" (Simpson, Boston Globe, 8/21).
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