H59 Retiree Insurance Reform Eyed For Fall

SEPTEMBER 2013 VOICE: The Joint Committee on Public Service has favorably released a key bill of particular importance to public retirees.

Under the direction of Co-Chairmen, Senator Will Brownsberger and Rep. Aaron Michlewitz, the Committee unanimously advanced legislation aimed at correcting Option B & C pensions for pre-July 2004 retirees (H2354). Also, among the bills heard by Public Service, is our legislation which increases basic state life insurance benefits from $5,000 to $10,000 (H2288).

H2354, filed by Rep. Tom Golden (D-Lynn), has been a burning issue with those Association members retired before July 1, 2004 under the older mortality tables. Instead of using new tables for retirees, as our own bill would do, Golden’s approach is to adjust the pensions of effected retirees by a fixed dollar amount.

Public Service Committee members felt this simplified approach increased the likelihood of the issue finally being resolved, as the proposal would be relatively simple to implement.H2354 was discharged to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

As for H2288, the Committee is closely reviewing it at press time. If passed the bill, which was filed by Rep. Vinny deMacedo (R-Plymouth), would represent the first increase in basic life insurance benefits in over 30 years. Benefits at the local level are set by each city and town individually and do not require further legislative action.

Now just seven months into the 2013-2014 Legislative Session, the Committee will continue to hold public hearings through spring 2014.

Anticipation is now growing for a likely fall hearing on H59, the governor’s Retiree Healthcare Reform proposal. Association and union officials continue to work closely on the bill, which at present exempts all current retirees from its proposed changes in healthcare benefits.

“We’re pleased that the Public Service Committee chose to take action on a few highly important bills for public retirees before focusing on retiree healthcare reform. H59 is a very important and complicated issue,” explained Legislative Liaison Shawn Duhamel. “Active employees should pay very close attention to what develops throughout the fall, but I see no reason for anyone to panic at this time.

“The bill will not become law overnight. There is also increased focus to ensure that no one close to retirement age is negatively impacted. I firmly believe that the system can be improved and made sustainable without being unfair to today’s employees and retirees.”

Update: The Joint Committee on Public Service has set October 31, 2013 for a public hearing on H59, Governor Deval Patrick's Retiree Healthcare Reform proposal.