To help communities across the Commonwealth with soaring health care costs, and to ensure that union members continue to have a say in their benefits, the Legislature passed and Governor Deval Patrick signed legislation that expedites entry for municipalities into the GIC as part of the Fiscal Year 2012 budget. The Municipal Health Reform legislation, Chapter 69 of the Acts of 2011, allows municipalities to make plan design changes locally or to transfer their employees and retirees into the GIC for coverage after a 30-day negotiation period with unions and a retiree representative.

Under the legislation, a city council and mayor/manager or the board of selectman and other political subdivisions can notify the municipality's Public Employee Committee (PEC) of its intent to make plan design changes or to join the GIC. The plan design changes can include copay and deductible changes and tiered networks up to those that match the GIC's largest plans (Tufts Health Plan Navigator for employees and non-Medicare retirees and UniCare State Indemnity Plan/Medicare Extension for Medicare retirees). The public authority must enumerate the proposed benefit changes, an estimate of the anticipated savings to the municipality for the first 12 months of the implementation, and a proposal to mitigate out-of-pocket costs for certain subscribers, with up to twenty-five percent of the savings shared with subscribers.

The PEC and municipality have 30 days from the receipt of the notice by the public authority to negotiate the changes and savings mitigation proposal. If a written agreement to implement the changes is not reached within the 30 days, the information is submitted to a panel comprised of an authority appointee, a PEC appointee, and one member designated by the Secretary of Administration and Finance. The panel has 10 days to reach a final and binding decision. The law allows municipality entry dates into the GIC of January 1, 2012, April 1, 2012, and July 1, 2012.

The and the GIC have each issued emergency regulations outlining the administrative process of the negotiations and entry into the GIC.

High health care costs and their alarming growth continue to crowd out other expenditures on the national and state level. Municipal Health Reform, which also requires most municipal Medicare-eligible retirees to enroll in Medicare and to join a Medicare supplemental plan, is just one example of legislation aimed at helping contain these costs. (The mandatory Medicare requirement has been law for state retirees since 1991 under Chapter 32A Section 18, but municipalities did not have the same requirement until now.) The Patrick-Murray Administration is also working on other initiatives to maintain health care quality and contain costs, such as payment reform. The GIC is participating in these initiatives and also working on health policy on the national level. We will keep members apprised as the health care landscape continues to evolve.

This information provided by the Group Insurance Commission .