NOVEMBER 19, 2012: Winchester retirees won’t be thinking kindly of the town’s board of selectmen this Thanksgiving after reading a letter from Town Manager Richard Howard about the future of their health insurance. That’s because the letter reported on the selectmen’s unanimous approval of insurance changes, presented to them by Howard earlier this month, that are aimed solely at dramatically increasing the health care costs for retirees. Howard was the mayor of Malden for approximately 17 years before being named to Wilmington’s top job by the selectmen.

“We’ve been blindsided by the selectmen’s decisions that as I see it, are a two-pronged frontal attack on us,” complains Jim Gray, retired firefighter and one of the retirement board elected members. “The first assault is coming this July when they’re going to raise all the deductibles, co pays and tiering to the same amounts as the state GIC’s Tufts Navigator for non-Medicare retirees and OME (Optional Medicare Extension) for those in Medicare.

“Then adding insult to injury, they’re going to increase, beginning the following July (2014), the percentage that a majority of our retirees contribute to their premium so that they’ll be paying an unbelievable three and a half to four times the percent they’re now paying. I honestly don’t know how our retirees, who retired before July ’04 on relatively small pensions, will be able to continue with their coverage once all of this sets in.

“According to the town, the average increase will be $1,600, but I believe they’re low balling the true impact. While they’re talking about helping retirees in financial need, there are no details and like anything, the devil is in the details. No question, these changes will be devastating and can’t be justified at all.”

“No one disputes that future healthcare costs  must be addressed by all parties – retirees, employees and town officials,” Association President Ralph White comments. “But, these efforts should be done jointly, and what the Winchester selectmen are doing here unilaterally is clearly not the way to go, and we would hope after further consideration a better and affordable approach to this issue ”

More details and comments in the January 2013 Voice.