Health Insurance

Articles about Health Insurance that may be useful to Massachusetts retirees

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.

Office Of Patient Protection Now Open

MARCH 2001 - New Agency Created By "Patients' Bill of Rights" Law - Members
are well aware that if they have a problem with a health insurance
claim, they can contact our Insurance Coordinator Cheryl Stillman.
"While I can't guarantee a successful outcome in every case, we will do
everything possible to resolve a member's problem," comments Stillman.

State Opens Insurance Enrollment Period

MARCH 2001 - From
April 7 to May 8, the GIC will hold is annual health fairs. Retired and
active employees are encouraged to attend one of the nineteen fairs
where members can speak with insurance officials about switching their
coverage if they choose. Changes made in each plan's coverage, along
with the retiree's choice of plan, are set to take effect July 1, 2001.

Lexington Coalition Bargaining: Changing Of The Guard

MARCH 2001 - For
over six years, John Walsh, a retired firefighter, has been
representing the Association on the Lexington Health Insurance
Coalition Bargaining Committee. It was just last November that we
reported extensively on the committee in the Voice.

Dental Survey Underway

MARCH 2001 -
As we have been reporting in recent editions of the Voice, the
Association is working with the state's Group Insurance Commission to
develop a retiree dental insurance plan. Since this will be the
Commonwealth's first venture into dental benefits for retirees, a great
deal of time and effort are being put into developing the plan.

Attleboro Survivors Win Insurance Premium Debate: Matt Savastano Was Catalyst

MARCH 2001 - Thanks
largely to the dogged determination of Association member Matt
Savastano, the City of Attleboro has opted to pay 50% of the cost of
health insurance premiums for surviving spouses of all retirees.

When
the city accepted a 50% surviving spouse statute in 1998, officials
decided that only spouses receiving a survivors pension were eligible.
Survivors of Option A or Option B retirees do not receive a pension and
were required to pay the full 100% for their coverage plus an
additional 2% service charge to the city.

"It
just wasn't fair and in my opinion not legal," said Savastano, a
retired Attleboro police officer and elected member of that city's
retirement board. "Prior to December, 1998 all survivors paid 100% but
when the city accepted a 50% provision (Sec. 9D, Ch. 32B) they didn't
include those poor women who were not collecting a pension. A survivor
is a survivor whether or not she is receiving a pension. And to charge
these women a service charge on top of the 100% was an insult."

Town Counsel Agrees

After
his request that all survivors receive the same insurance benefit was
denied by city officials, Savastano went on a one-man crusade and took
his case to the City Council. The Council referred his request to their
Ordinance Committee where Chairman Frank Cook asked for a legal opinion
from City Solicitor John Lee. Lee responded with a three-page letter
which included the following finding:

"There
is no legal basis to ban such participation (50%) on the part of a
surviving spouse on the grounds that the retired employee did not elect
to receive his retirement benefits under Option C.

"In
summary, I agree with Mr. Savastano that the surviving spouse is
entitled to participate in the City's health insurance plans whether
the retired employee elects to receive his retirement benefits under
Option (a), (b) or (c)." The Council then went on to vote in favor of a
50% payment and sent a resolution to Mayor Judith Robbins, who ordered
its implementation.

Spurred 1998 Vote

Savastano
and fellow retirement board elected member Gary Sagar, a firefighter,
had teamed up to win the 1998 50% vote. Since then, city officials had
told Savastano that, "It's not the right time to push any further."
"When would the time be right? Should we wait until these women are
dead," was Savastano's response in taking his case to the Council.

"I
want to thank Frank Cook, the chairman of the Ordinance Committee and
the entire Council for voting for the survivors. Also John Lee, who
researched the issue and made it very clear the survivors were being
unjustly denied a benefit that they were entitled to," Savastano said.

"Matt
is a determined guy when it comes to retirees and survivors," said
Association President Ralph White. "He frequently clashed with city
officials when he was president of the Attleboro Police Union and
despite a recent hospitalization due to a heart condition, he hasn't
lost a step."

It's
noteworthy that the City Council President Carolyn Tedino said that
Matt Savastano likely saved the city legal expenses if someone sued the
city over the situation, and Councilor Bill Bowles acknowledged
Savastano's "perseverance."

Widows Grateful

"This
will be a big help. I have a somewhat fixed income and still live in my
own house," said Emeline Proulx whose husband George, a retired
firefighter, died 3 years ago. "I was paying $222.29 each month for
Medex coverage plus the service charge. Now I'm paying $108.96. I'd
heard of Matt Savastano, but had never met him until he went to the
Council on our behalf. He's quite a man... I can't say enough about
him."

Rose Ganim is
the wife of George Ganim, a retired Attleboro teacher who died 15
months ago. Like Emiline Proulx, Rose was paying $222.29 monthly for
her Medex coverage. "I'm getting by ok financially but can use the
extra money. Prescription drugs have gone up in price and this
unexpected reduction in insurance payments will more than make up for
what I pay the pharmacy," she said. "I've known Matt Savastano for many
years... He's related to my son-in-law. Matt is a hard worker and we
really appreciate what he's done for us."

We
have copies of the full text of the Attleboro City Solicitor's legal
opinion which resulted in parity for Option A and B survivors in that
city. Copies are available to anyone seeking redress from similar
discrimination in a city or town.

"I
know there are cities and towns out there that discriminate against A
and B survivors when it comes to health insurance. It was only ten
years ago under Ray Flynn (Mayor) that Boston provided insurance
equality for all survivors," said White. "There is a very narrow view
by some that a surviving spouse has to be receiving a pension in order
to be included. Chapter 32B doesn't say anything about a survivor
receiving a pension, nor does Chapter 32A (state) which recognizes all
surviviving spouses, regardless of their option."

GIC Promotes Patient Safety

JANUARY 2001 -
Members, insured through one of the state Group Insurance Commission's
health plans, will soon be a little safer when they seek medical
treatment. For years, little has been done by the insurance industry to
combat what is known as a "preventable adverse event," or what has come
to be known in the popular press as medical errors.

Dental Plan Status

JANUARY 2001 -
As was indicated in the November edition of the Voice, the Association
is working closely with the state Group Insurance Commission (GIC) to
establish dental and vision coverage for retirees insured under one of
the state plans. This development process was established by the
governor and legislature with the goal of having a plan available for
retirees by this July 1. At press time, the retiree survey was nearing
completion and was soon to be randomly mailed to members insured
through the state GIC.