Heavy Activity on Cape Cod, South Shore and Nashoba Valley

DECEMBER 19, 2011: As 2012 approaches, the number of municipalities eyeing changes to their local health insurance plans is rapidly growing. In the past two weeks alone, the Association has had requests from 18 separate local entities seeking a retiree representative to the local Public Employee Committee (PEC).

The PEC, which is comprised of a local retiree (appointed by our Association) and representatives of each local bargaining unit, negotiates changes in health insurance plan design or the transfer into the state Group Insurance Commission with local officials. Negotiations begin once the municipality or district makes its proposal to the PEC. By law, negotiations must be completed within 30 days, otherwise the proposal is put before a state review panel.

“We had an initial rush back at the end of summer by communities seeking to enter the GIC on January 1. Arlington, Medford, Somerville and Wakefield transfer into the GIC next month, following Lynnfield which made the transition on November 1,” says Association Legislative Liaison Shawn Duhamel. “Most of the communities now implementing the new law (Chapter 69, Acts of 2011) are doing so with the focus on making plan design changes to their existing insurance plans.”

Under the plan design options, local entities can increase copayments and deductibles up to the level charged by the state GIC for its most subscribed Medicare (OME) and non-Medicare (Tufts Navigator) plan. The law requires that up to 25% of the first year’s savings be set aside to help offset or mitigate the increased out-of-pocket costs through the reimbursement of Medicare Part B premiums or the establishment of health reimbursement accounts (HRA).

“In choosing a local retiree to serve on the PEC, we look for someone who is a retiree of that community, has some knowledge of how health insurance plans function and experience in collective bargaining. Ideally, living in the community from which you retired is also a plus, but certainly not required,” explains Patricia Igo, the Association’s PEC Coordinator. “Virtually not a day has gone by in December when we did not get yet another request to make an appointment to a PEC. At this point, nearly every community on Cape Cod and throughout the South Shore is in the midst of negotiations. Last week, interest also spiked in the Nashoba Valley area.

“As of today, we have nearly 120 PECs existing throughout Massachusetts and at various stages of activity.”

Nearly every community on Cape Cod belongs to the Cape Cod Municipal Health Group, while smaller communities on the South Shore have joined the Mayflower Group, which is operated by Plymouth County.