Health Insurance

Articles about Health Insurance that may be useful to Massachusetts retirees

Retirees Continue To Opt For Indemnity Plans Over HMOs

SEPTEMBER 2001
- Greater Expense Deters Few - New statistics just released by the Commonwealth’s Group Insurance
Commission (GIC) show that, despite increased costs, membership in the
GIC Indemnity grew dramatically in the last year. This is good news for
retirees, who depend heavily on this plan as their medical needs
increase.

Towns Continue To Join MIIA Health Insurance Pool

SEPTEMBER 2001
- Plan Now Includes 20% Of Towns - Now in its ninth year of operation, the state's largest municipal
health insurance pool, the Massachusetts Interlocal Insurance
Association (MIIA) Health Benefits Trust, includes twenty percent of
the municipalities in the Commonwealth. In addition to the 67 towns in
the insurance pool, there are 21 water and regional school districts
and similar governmental units participating as well.

Agawam

JULY 2001 - New Organization Off and Running - Among the several local organizations, to which many of our members belong, is the Agawam Retired Employees Association (AREA).AREA
was formed by a group of Agawam retirees and survivors for the purpose
of improving benefits for former workers of that Western Massachusetts
city.

Ban On Balance Billing Saves State Millions

JULY 2001 - GIC Uses Law To Set Market Rates - Nearly
five years after the Association successfully battled the Mass Hospital
Association and Medical Society to institute a ban on balance billing
under the state’s insurance plans, the Group Insurance Commission has
utilized the law (Chapter 80, Acts of 1996) to save nearly $85 million
over the past three years.Chapter
80 was originally passed to prevent doctors, hospitals and other
medical providers within Massachusetts from charging members, insured
under the state plan, for the balance left unpaid by the GIC. Expanding
on this prohibition, Chapter 80 has allowed the GIC to institute a
Market Based Reimbursement System (MBRS) for paying medical providers.

Despite Strong Interest Dental Plan Is Delayed

JULY 2001
- Crafting Affordable Coverage Proves Challenging - Members, who had hoped to have retiree dental benefits made available
to them this year, will have to wait a little longer. The ambitious
effort by the state Group Insurance Commission and the Association to
craft a dental plan, to be implemented this July, has been delayed
until July 1, 2002.It
has been determined that, in order to develop an affordable dental
plan, that can be purchased by a large number of retirees, more time
will be needed. On the other hand, efforts are underway to offer
discounted vision care to retirees beginning later this year.

Local Retirees Question Physician Bills

JULY 2001 - Can My Doctor Charge Me Or Not? - Members,
insured under a municipal health insurance plan, may have received a
bill from their doctor and questioned why. “What I usually hear from
the members is: ‘I never got a bill before and thought I never would,’”
reports Insurance Coordinator Cheryl Stillman.This
is typical because these members believed, and rightfully so, that
there are state laws that ban physicians from charging them for the
balance owed on a bill over the allowable rate. If a doctor bills $150
for a service and the allowable rate, set by Blue Cross/Blue Shield or
Medicare, is $100, then the doctor cannot bill a patient, insured by
BC/BS or a Medicare supplement plan, for the $50 balance over the
allowable rate.

Dental Survey: Initial Results Show Strong Interest

MAY 2001 -
For the past several months, the Association has been working closely
with the state Group Insurance Commission and the consultant Boston
Benefit Partners to develop a retiree dental/vision plan. A key
component to this work is a survey of retirees, which is nearing
completion.

Prescription Copayments Draw Attention

MAY 2001 -
Insurance Committee Fast To Act
- It should come as no surprise to members that issues regarding
prescription drugs remain a hot topic on Beacon Hill. In fact, so much
interest has been drawn to the topic that the Joint Committee on
Insurance addressed two of the more pressing bills at the Committee’s
maiden hearing on March 20.Chaired
by Senator Therese Murray (D-Plymouth) and Representative Ronald
Mariano (D-Quincy), the joint committee was quick to act favorably on
H3353 filed by Rep. Robert Koczera (D-New Bedford). The bill requires
the Group Insurance Commission to establish an appeal process to
address complaints regarding the new three-tiered copayment system.

Whately Votes To Pay 50% Of Insurance

MAY 2001 -
Voters in the small western Mass. town of Whately, population 1,470,
have voted to pay 50% of their retirees’ health insurance. Previously,
retirees paid the full cost.

GIC Keeps Insurance Rates In Check

MAY 2001 -
State Increase Well Below National Average - For the second straight year, members insured under the state Group
Insurance Commission’s Indemnity or OME plans will see a very small
increase in their monthly premium. In contrast, most members, insured
under one of the various HMOs, will see a double-digit increase in
their monthly premium for the second straight year.