The Group Insurance Commission’s open enrollment for 2011 ended this week and no one signed up for it. This was designed to help municipalities save millions a year. Joel Barrera, deputy director of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, a planning organization for 101 Boston area communities said, “The experiences of the 31 municipalities and regional government units that have joined the commission since 2007 clearly demonstrate the potential for substantial savings.”
Barrera also stated, “We know the GIC saves millions of dollars, but we also know municipalities are not able to get the GIC. That means we need a legislative fix.” Seventy percent of the local union representatives of municipalities have to approve joining the GIC. Jay Gonzalez, Governor Patrick’s secretary of administration and finance said, “The administration supports a bill to roll back that requirement to 50%. That would be meaningful change by reducing the barrier to the GIC.”
The GIC was made an option for municipalities in 2007 by Patrick and the state legislature. With the rapid increasing cost of health care coverage for retirees, employees and elected officials, the municipalities have been strapped for cash. Historically, the GIC has lower cost increases because it is the largest group insurer and can bargain with providers.
The GIC can increase the deductible and co-payments without union negotiations. This has allowed the commission to change some costs to plan members. With the possibility of an increase in out-of-pocket expenses for members, municipal unions are cautious and have backed away from joining the GIC. The GIC increased their deductible in the middle of the fiscal year last year, which might have caused other municipalities not to join. About a dozen government units or municipalities joined in the first 2yrs it became available to towns and cities but last year only two joined.