Retirees Fight For a Voice on Group Insurance Commission

Fate Rests With House/Senate Budget Conferees

JUNE 21, 2017: Members who are insured under the state’s Group Insurance Commission (GIC) are asked to contact their State Representative and Senator in support of a proposal granting Mass Retirees a seat on the board governing the health insurance plan.

The proposal is contained within the Senate’s version of the FY18 state budget, which is now in negotiations between House and Senate budget conferees. House Ways and Means Chairman Brian Dempsey, Vice Chairman Stephen Kulik and ranking Republican member Todd Smola are the House conferees. Senate conferees include Ways and Means Chairwoman Karen Spilka, Vice Chairman Sal DiDomenico and ranking Republican Vinny deMacedo.

Last month the Senate approved the measure, backed by our Association and public employee unions, which reconstitutes the 17-member GIC.

Outside Section 48 of S.2076 grants Mass Retirees with nominating authority over the GIC’s retiree representative. Currently, the governor has exclusive authority to appoint the retiree representative – without any input from our Association!

Section 48 also creates two additional labor seats on the Commission – one for the Mass. Organization of State Scientists and Engineers (MOSES) and the second for SEIU Local 509. If passed, active and retired public employees will hold eight of the GIC’s 17 seats.

Additionally, Section 48 also requires the GIC to hold public hearings BEFORE voting to increase enrollee costs or embarking on plan design changes.

Mass Retirees has been highly critical of recent votes by the GIC that have sharply increased out-of-pocket costs on retirees – especially those members not insured under Medicare. Since 2015, copayments and deductibles have increased some $285 million.

“We believe that the GIC has acted without first realizing the full impact these cost increases have on enrollees, particularly those retiring many years ago and have very modest pensions, with little to no Social Security benefit,” said President Frank Valeri. “While we cannot rollback time and undo the damage already done, we can make sure our members have a strong voice on the Commission.

Retired Belmont State Representative Anne Paulson is the current retiree representative on the GIC. She was first appointed to the Commission by then-Governor Deval Patrick in 2008 and reappointed in 2014. Her term expires this fall.

“With Anne’s term set to expire this fall, it is more important than ever that we make sure our Association has direct input. Anne has been an excellent advocate for public retirees and we must ensure our members continue to have their own voice on the GIC,” continued Valeri.

Reports from Beacon Hill indicate that the Budget Conference process is expected to last until late June, if not stretching into early July. Members are asked to contact their local State Senator and Representative by phone or email and ask that they support our GIC proposal contained in Section 48 of S.2076. It is important that it become part of the FY18 budget.

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