Breaking News

LOCAL INSURANCE CHANGES LOOM

Proposal Would Mandate Medicare Enrollment

MAY 8, 2009: A special legislative commission, charged with studying municipal reform measures and new local revenue sources, has issued a report that calls for changes in local health insurance plans.

If passed, each local community not currently enrolled in the GIC would be forced to conduct an analysis of their local insurance costs. If local costs are higher than the GIC, on a per enrollee basis, the coalition bargaining process would be triggered and benefits renegotiated in order to lower local insurance costs. Retirees would have a seat at the bargaining table under this proposal.

NO RADIOLOGY COPAYMENTS FOR MEDICARE RETIREES

Emergency Room Payments Remain at $25

MAY 2009: Retirees insured under the state’s Group Insurance Commission (GIC) and enrolled in the Medicare supplement plans  will not be subject to the new $75 radiology copayment that takes effect on July 1. In addition, GIC officials have opted to maintain the current emergency room copayments for Medicare retirees, instead of the new $75 copayment being charged to enrollees of the non Medicare insurance plans

ALL EYES ON BEACON HILL

Budget Debate Begins, While Reforms Continue

APRIL 27, 2009: The Massachusetts House of Representatives begins debate on the Fiscal Year 2010 state budget this week. While the budget does include a full 3% COLA for state and teacher retirees and does not change state retiree insurance contribution rates, our Association is closely monitoring developments on Beacon Hill.

Association officials are deeply concerned about a proposed 25% reduction in local aid, along with a $1.9 billion cut in overall state spending. Tax receipts have plummeted in the past six months as unemployment numbers worsen. What long-term impact the recession may have remains to be seen.

House Budget Includes 3% COLA

No Change to Retiree Health Insurance

APRIL 15, 2009: The House Committee on Ways and Means has filed a Fiscal Year 2010 budget proposal that contains a full 3% cost-of-living adjustment for retired state employees and teachers. Support for the COLA, which is scheduled to be paid in July, comes despite a looming $4 billion deficit for FY10.

House budget writers, led by Chairman Charles Murphy (D-Burlington), have proposed an increase in the health insurance contributions paid by active stare employees. Under the House proposal, active state workers would contribute 30% toward their insurance premiums. However, state retirees are held harmless, as our any municipal retirees/employees entering the GIC through coalition bargaining.

PENSION REFORM DEBATE UNDERWAY

Retirees Not Impacted By Changes

APRIL 13, 2009: Legislative leaders are quickly advancing legislation that will redefine some aspects of the Massachusetts defined benefit pension plan. Know as “pension reform”, this legislative action follows several year’s worth of media expose’ that allege pension abuse by a small number of individuals “gaming” the system.

While the proposed changes do not impact the pension benefits of any current retirees, some changes may impact current public employees. The Senate passed its version (S2026) of a pension reform bill on March 31 and the House is expected to debate a similar bill (H4054) on Tuesday, April 14.

GIC OPEN ENROLLMENT NOW UNDERWAY

APRIL 11, 2009: The state’s Group Insurance Commission (GIC) is now holding its annual open enrollment period, during which retirees and employees are allowed to make changes in their insurance coverage (effective July 1, 2009). With nearly 300,000 state and local retirees and employees now insured under the state plan, a large portion of Association members are impacted.

During open enrollment, which runs from April 13 to May 15, 2009, the GIC will hold 18 health fairs across the state. The health fairs, attended by GIC and insurance company officials, provide an excellent opportunity for members seeking additional information about their insurance coverage to speak directly with the people responsible.

RETIREE STIMULUS PAYMENTS BEGIN IN MAY

MARCH 28, 2009: Vice President Joseph Biden announced Friday that federal stimulus payments to Social Security recipients will take place in May. The one-time $250 payment, included within the $825 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will be made in a separate check and is payable to all retirees who receive Social Security benefits.

Public retirees, who do not receive a Social Security benefit, will receive a $250 tax rebate paid by the IRS. Unfortunately, non Social Security retirees must wait until they file their 2009 taxes (filed in 2010) in order to receive the stimulus payment.

LEGISLATIVE WORK UNDERWAY

Spellane & McGee Chair Public Service

MARCH 20, 2009: As state leaders ramp up efforts to close a growing deficit for the current FY09 fiscal year, House and Senate budget writers work to assemble the Fiscal Year 2010 budget, while Legislative committees begin their work on the thousands of pending bills.

With monthly revenue collections continuing to fall lower than anticipated, current estimates set the remaining deficit at $500 million, with the potential to grow to $1 billion by the end of June. Roughly $2.5 billion has already been cut from the FY09 budget, which began last July. New House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Murphy (D-Burlington) is working closely with his Senate counterpart, Senator Steven Panagiotakos (D-Lowell) to craft the FY2010 budget with an anticipated budget shortfall surpassing $4 billion.

IMPORTANT NOTICE TO MEMBERS OF THE STATE RETIREMENT SYSTEM

Dear Members of the State Retirement System: You will shortly receive a ballot for a very important election at the State Retirement Board.

Theresa McGoldrick, who sits along with Ralph White as one of the two elected members on the State Retirement Board, is running for reelection for a new three-year term. Because elections are staggered, Theresa’s is the only election this year.

STATE HOLDS DOWN INSURANCE RATES

OME Plan Costs Drop

MARCH 7, 2009: Officials with the state’s Group Insurance Commission (GIC) have announced the insurance rates for FY10, which begins on July 1. The average increase across all GIC sponsored plans is 3.1%, with an actual price reduction for the Optional Medicare Extension (OME) plan.

While insurance costs have risen across the Commonwealth and country between 5-6% on average, the GIC has once again managed to come in with significantly lower increases. This is good news for the 325,000 state retirees and employees, retired teachers, and retired and active local employees now enrolled in the state insurance plans.