Several union organizations in Massachusetts are preparing to make an announcement today regarding a proposal on municipal health insurance. State legislators have been seeking a way to control the costs of insurance before they begin spiraling out of control. Governor Deval Patrick has been pushing for approval to give municipal leaders more authority to make changes to health insurance coverage.
A number of municipal and school district leaders call rising insurance costs “budget busters.” They blame the costs associated with health insurance for cut backs in services and employee layoffs.
The Massachusetts Municipal Association claims that health insurance costs for cities have gone up by 150% over the last decade. Other sectors of government have only risen by 30% in the same time period.
“Taxpayers are paying much more than they should for public employees’ health insurance,” says Geoffrey Beckwith, executive director of the Municipal Association. The Association estimates that citizens pay more than $100 million annually for health insurance for public employees. Beckwith asserts that now is the time to get these costs under control.
Governor Patrick introduced a proposal earlier this year that would overhaul health insurance programs and net nearly $120 million in savings. The proposal has garnered favor amongst a number of municipal leaders but raised concerns that unions may retain too much control over the issue. For this reason, propositions have been introduced that would allow municipal leaders to circumvent the collective bargaining process as long as new insurance plans are equal to, or greater than, the ones currently offered.
The announcement of these changes is scheduled to be made today at the Massachusetts State House.