Basic Life Insurance Bill Advances

Public Service Committee Grants Favorable Report

AUGUST 11, 2015: Legislation that would increase the basic life insurance benefit for state retirees and active employees has been released with a favorable report by the Joint Committee on Public Service.

Association officials worked closely with Committee Chairmen Rep. Jamie Murphy (D-Weymouth) and Senator Jim Timilty (D-Walpole) in recent months to advance the legislation forward prior to the start of the FY17 state budget cycle.

Identical House and Senate bills are now before the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. The Committee is chaired by Senator Karen Spilka (D-Ashland), a strong supporter of public retirees and Association ally. Rep. John Lawn (D-Watertown) and Senators Tom McGee (D-Lynn) and Vinny deMacedo (R-Plymouth) are the respective lead sponsors.

“I can’t personally thank Chairmen Murphy and Timilty enough for the work they and their Committee put into advancing this issue forward early in the 2015-2016 Session. They knew the issue of basic life insurance is a top priority of our members and therefore made it a top priority of the Committee,” said Association President Frank Valeri. “Our goal is has been to make this issue a priority in the FY17 budget process, which begins in earnest this fall. With the bills before Ways and Means, we’re now in a great position to advance the issue forward for the first time in thirty years.”

S1400 and H2359 would increase the state’s basic life insurance benefit to $10,000, marking a $5,000 increase over the current level established in 1985. While state retirees and employees would bare their share of the premium cost, the annual increased cost to the Commonwealth would be approximately $9 million.

While the state’s Group Insurance Commission (GIC) manages the life insurance benefits, the level of benefit is determined within the state insurance law as set by the legislature.

For retired teachers and municipal workers, cities and towns set life insurance benefits locally. Benefit levels range from $1,000 to over $10,000, as determined by local option.

With average funeral and burial costs now higher than $13,000 basic life insurance benefits set decades ago no longer work as intended.

“There is no question that increasing life insurance benefits is our top state issue at this time. And while cities and towns set their own local benefits, attention and action at the state level can serve as a catalyst locally for improved benefits,” explains Legislative Director Shawn Duhamel.