Reporting Carl Stevens
BOSTON (CBS) – For years, many city and town leaders across Massachusetts have been trying to save money by getting local unions to join the state’s insurance plan. Things may now be coming together on Beacon Hill to make that happen.
It was one of the budget proposals outlined by Governor Deval Patrick on Wednesday: a way to make it easier for municipalities to force local unions to join the Group Insurance Commission.
With support from legislative leaders, this may be the year it gets done.
“I think the governor and I at least are on the same wave length in terms of something has to be done,” House Speaker Bob DeLeo told WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Carl Stevens. “If we’re talking about cutting over $60 million dollars… then we have to give cities and towns the ability to raise those funds somewhere else.”
“We’ve been talking about it too long,” DeLeo said. “My proposal is probably a little simpler and more direct than the governor’s. If we’re not saving money, if you’re going to save money with GIC, then you have to join the GIC.”
But there has been opposition from some unions, and that is something lawmakers will have to address.
The president of the National Association of Government Employees, which has a seat on the Group Insurance Commission, is not sure about having cities and towns join the GIC. David Holway said he sees more cost shifting than savings.
“A municipality comes in, agrees to pay the GIC $5 million. The real question is how much did the GIC pay out to those people covered in the municipality by the plan?” Holway told WBZ NewsRadio 1030′s Lana Jones.
Holway said he has not seen those figures, though out of pocket payments from employees and municipalities are smaller. Still, he said he wants to see where the savings is coming from, before advising other unions to sign on.