HEALTHCARE DEBATE HEATS UP AS REPORT DATE NEARS

Retirees & Labor Present Unified Front

DECEMBER 3, 2012: After more than eight months of meetings and analysis, the 12-member Special Commission on Retiree Healthcare is now in the process of drafting its report and finalizing its recommendations.

With the report due to be filed with Governor Patrick and the Legislature by December 20, little time remains for the Commission to iron out key details. These details center on the eligibility of future retirees to obtain health insurance benefits, as well as prorating premium contribution rates based on years of service.

Retired Hanover teacher Ann Wass (representing the MTA and serving as Commission Vice Chairman), retired Dracut firefighter Andrew Powell (representing the AFL-CIO) and our Association’s Shawn Duhamel (representing retirees) are working in close consultation with retiree and union leaders in an attempt to defend critical retiree health insurance benefits from future cuts.

“The three of us have worked very well together and have presented a unified front in terms of what we feel is both fair and reasonable,” says Duhamel. “For instance, we’ve had unwavering support from the unions for our position that current retirees must not be impacted by these new reforms. And we support labor’s position that active employees near retirement should also be held harmless.

“While there is no denying that healthcare costs have gone up over the years and, as a result, some changes might be necessary, you can’t lose sight of the fact that there is a real impact on people if these reforms go into effect. Fairness has to be part of the consideration.”

Wass, Powell and Duhamel are all part of a Commission subcommittee that is now in the midst of negotiating the report’s recommendations.

Negotiations now center on eligibility requirements, proration and, most importantly, when will the new law go into effect and which group of current employees might be impacted.

The governor is expected to file legislation based on the Commission’s report early in 2013. More details in the upcoming January 2013 Voice.

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