From the Fall 2008 issue of For Your Benefit
This July was the first opportunity for cities, towns, districts, charter schools, and planning councils to take advantage of the new municipal group insurance law, which allows municipalities the option of getting health insurance benefits for their employees and retirees through the GIC. New communities were pleased with both the transition and the savings that came with their move to the GIC. Signed by Governor Deval Patrick on July 25, 2007, the law provides communities with some relief from the financial pressures of rapidly rising health insurance costs. Towns such as Holbrook, Millis and Groveland have already experienced significant savings for both the town's budget and the employees' wallets. According to Michael D. Yunits, Holbrook's Town Administrator, employees will realize a whopping 58 percent reduction in rates, although they will see increases in co-pays, and the Town will save seven percent ($212,314) during the first year alone.
Many municipalities had expected a difficult transition for administrative reasons and/or the perceptions associated with joining a large state group insurance program. Some administrative processes had to be overhauled and there were a number of queries from subscribers. In anticipation of these challenges, GIC staff members were readily available to take questions and to help administrators through the day-to-day process. Greg Labrecque, Finance Director for the Town of Groveland said, "The process to enter the Group Insurance Commission was made easier than I anticipated due to the cooperation of our employees and retirees along with tremendous support from GIC staff." Labrecque went on to say, "I have not had one complaint as everything is proceeding just as it was advertised."
Municipal officials must employ a process known as coalition bargaining to negotiate collectively with union and retiree representatives through a Public Employee Committee. Agreement to enter into the GIC requires approval of 70 percent of the Public Employee Committee and administrators must notify the GIC of their participation by October 1, 2008 for a coverage effective date of July 1, 2009. Jeff Cannon, the Treasurer/Collector for the Town of Millis suggests that municipalities thinking of joining the GIC keep in mind that "the transition experience was not without difficulties but all were overcome fairly easily" and that "the payback in reduced health insurance premium, for our subscribers and for the town, has been very gratifying and well worth the effort."
This information provided by the Group Insurance Commission.