On July 25, 2007, Governor Deval Patrick signed into law Chapter 67 of the Acts of 2007 that allows municipalities the option of joining the Group Insurance Commission's health coverage. The Governor and Lt. Governor Tim Murphy had included this proposal as a centerpiece of their Municipal Partnership Act. The law will enable municipalities to reduce health insurance costs for their employees and retirees by joining the GIC's state employee pool. Municipal employees who join GIC health coverage will no longer collectively bargain their health insurance benefits, which will be determined instead by the GIC. The new law also allows regional councils of government and regional planning agencies, charter schools and education collaboratives to join GIC coverage as a local option.
According to research conducted by the Massachusetts Municipal Association in cooperation with the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, the average rate of municipal health care cost growth of 13 percent a year for the last six years was almost double that of the GIC's rate increase. In addition to saving money, many municipal employees would have access to a broader array of health plans.
The bill, whose lead sponsors were State Representative Rachel Kapprielian (former Representative D-Watertown) and Senator Richard T. Moore (D-Uxbridge), was developed by the Municipal Health Insurance Working Group, chaired by John P. Hamill, Chairman of Sovereign Bank New England. The law was drafted in response to local health insurance rate increases that are adversely affecting municipal services and tax rates. It requires municipal officials to employ coalition bargaining to negotiate the conditions for entering the GIC with a local committee of union and retiree representatives; a weighted vote of 70% of the municipality's Public Employee Committee is required to join. Municipalities must notify the GIC by October 1 of any year in order to have GIC health benefits effective July 1 of the following year. Several new municipal representatives representing management and labor will join the Commission this fall, and two more will be added after more than 45,000 municipal subscribers have enrolled.
During the summer of 2007, GIC staff participated in 15 regional meetings to discuss the new law with municipal and employee representatives. Staff outlined issues for the municipalities to consider before they join and gave them an overview of the implementation timeline and tasks.
This information provided by the Group Insurance Commission.