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Tackling health costs requires coordinated effort

EDITORIAL  Gov. Deval Patrick has set the ambitious goal of reducing by $1 billion the projected health care expenditures in the next fiscal year. While there is reason to doubt whether he’ll be able to meet that target, he has followed up with concrete proposals.

GateHouse News Service Posted Feb 23, 2011 @ 10:00 AM

Pension Reform Legislation Filed By Governor Deval Patrick

Pension Reform Legislation Filed By Governor Deval Patrick

Eliminates Early Retirement For Many

FEBRUARY 17, 2011: Governor Deval Patrick has filed legislation, HB35, which creates a new retirement formula for state and local government employees hired after July 1, 2011. At this time the Governor has strong support for reform by both the House and Senate Leaders.

Among a number of changes in our current statute, the Group 1 pension formula, which includes the vast majority of public employees, does not allow retirement until age 60 and changes the 80% maximum formula age from 65 to 67.

Wage War: Government Employees vs. Everybody Else

Public Sector Protesters in Wisconsin Face a Backlash, But Are State Workers Really Overpaid?

Are public workers overpaid? Are their entitlements too cushy, their retirements too rich? How do they compare in overall compensation with their private sector peers?

Bad pension policies should not be grandfathered

EDITORIAL — Lawmakers like to hold up their pension reform measures like they’ve bagged a trophy buck but the persistence of embarrassing tales of retirement bonanzas make their efforts seem less like heroic encounters and more like a game of Whac-A-Mole.

Residents face $20b retiree health tab

Study finds most cities, towns don't put enough aside

Massachusetts residents face potentially devastating tax increases in the coming years to pay health insurance benefits for retired police, firefighters, and other municipal employees, according to a new study that finds the 50 largest cities and towns alone face a retiree health care bill of $20 billion over the next 30 years.

By Sean P. Murphy Globe Staff / February 16, 2011

GIC Unveils Plan To Save $100 Million

Health Fairs Focus On Employee Reenrollment

FEBRUARY 14, 2011: The state's Group Insurance Commission has put plans in place that, if successful, are expected to save the Commonwealth upwards of $100 million for FY12, beginning on July 1, 2011. Under the plan, active state employees, enrolled in one of six limited network low-cost plans offered by the GIC for the coming year will receive free coverage for three months - a so-called "Premium Holiday."

Deck Shuffled For Legislative Leaders

House and Senate Committees Take Shape

February 4, 2011: Senate President Therese Murray and House Speaker Robert DeLeo have each shuffled the deck with a realignment of their respective leadership teams for the new 2011-2012 Legislative Session. Of direct importance to public retirees are the Joint Committee on Public Service, as well as the respective House and Senate Ways and Means Committees.

Governor Proposes Pension Reform III

Would Not Impact Current Retirees

JANUARY 19, 2011: Following on the heels of two previous pension reform packages, Governor Deval Patrick has filed new legislation dubbed "Pension Reform III" that seeks to make the most sweeping changes to our defined benefit pension since the modern program was created generations ago. Members should note that none of the proposals in the bill would have any impact on current retirees, or, for the most part, today's active employees.

New Legislative Session Begins

Bill Filing Underway

JANUARY 4, 2011: Following on the heels of the 112th Congress, which was sworn into office on Monday, the Massachusetts Great and General Court begins its 2011-2012 session on Wednesday. With the lingering effect of the recession continuing to hamper economic growth, the 160 member House and 40 member Senate will surely have their work cut out.

Keating Our Choice In 10Th

Keating Our Choice In 10Th

NOVEMBER 2010 VOICE: It is not often that our Association becomes involved in a Congressional race. However, because of what is at stake in the 10th Congressional District, the distinction between the two candidates presents such a stark contrast to our Association's values that is newsworthy to all members. Also, because of what is at stake in this race, it has drawn national attention and this nationwide media spotlight will shine even brighter as November 2 approaches.

Somerville Board Fails Retirees

Also Leominster & Arlington

JULY 30, 2010: Despite the urging of Somerville Retirement Board member Jack Memory, that city's Retirement Board failed to take action on a 3% July COLA and, as a result, the retired members of the Somerville Retirement System, by "default,"  have lost this fiscal year's COLA.

"The Board never put a COLA vote on its agenda, never put it on the table. It's inexcusable," says Association President Ralph White. "It's too late now. The window of opportunity is gone."

Essex Board: Recover Ahead

Essex Board: Recover Ahead

Hanlon Is New Member

JULY 14, 2010 (Updated): As the Essex Regional Retirement Board moves toward recovery under a well-publicized overhaul, a State House regular, Mike Hanlon, has been named as the Board's fifth member.

Hanlon, a state retiree who ran the Commonwealth's Deferred Compensation Plan under former treasurer Shannon O'Brien, had earlier worked for the City of Boston and Middlesex County. He is currently the executive director of the Mass. Collectors and Treasurers Association.

Busy Election Year Ahead

Two Candidates Meet Members

Association leaders combined a membership meeting with a political rally at a brunch at the Radisson Hotel in Plymouth on June 25th.

The political side of the gathering of 250 members was in recognition of our Association's endorsement of Bill Keating, candidate for U.S. Representative of the 10th Congressional District, and Steve Grossman candidate for Treasurer and Receiver General of Massachusetts.

In introducing Keating, currently the outgoing District Attorney of Norfolk County, Association President Ralph White pointed out that when

CVS Carmark, Walgreen Settle Dispute

10,000 GIC Enrollees Relieved

JUNE 22, 2010: Officials with CVS Caremark and Walgreen have announced a compromise that will avert a near crisis in which Walgreen would have no longer filled prescriptions covered by CVS Caremark's pharmacy benefits management  (PBM) service. The corporate battle between the country's two largest pharmacies heated up in early June over reimbursement rates paid by CVS.

Association Endorses Steve Grossman For State Treasurer

Association Endorses Steve Grossman For State Treasurer

Our Association Executive Board has announced the unanimous vote of endorsement on behalf of Steve Grossman for the office of Treasurer of the Commonwealth, both in September's Democratic Primary Election and in the November General Election.

CVS Caremark: Get Used To The Name

CVS Caremark: Get Used To The Name

The older we get the less we like change. However, retirees insured by the Commonwealth's Group Insurance Commission's Unicare plans are assured by the GIC that the change from Express Scripts to CVS Caremark, as their prescription drug provider, will be relatively painless.

In other words, folks; get used to it. In the world of major insurance contracts, including prescription drugs, change does happen. Express Scripts has had a nice run of ten years, since taking over the contract from Merck-Medco in July 2000.

Annual Greater Boston Luncheon

Annual Greater Boston Luncheon

June 18 In Dedham: Reserve Tickets Now

Our Annual Spring Luncheon will be held at the Holiday Inn, Route 1, Dedham on Friday, June 18, 2010, 12:00 noon. The Spring Luncheon is always a sellout. Please make your reservations early. All reservations must be made in advance by writing or phoning our Association office at (617) 723-7283. Members are welcome to bring along guests.

The Holiday Inn is location at the junction of Routes 1 and 128. If travelling either north or south on Rt. 128, take Dedham Exit 15A.

Senate Passes Elderly Driver Restrictions

Bill Now in House/Senate Conference

MARCH 3, 2010: On Tuesday, the Mass State Senate passed its version of the so-called "Safe Driver" bill (S2290). The bill, which drew a spirited debate amongst Senators from both parties, contains language that would require drivers age 75 and older to undergo a cognitive and physical abilities test in order to renew their license.

Express Scripts Out As Gic Vendor

Express Scripts Out As Gic Vendor

CVS Caremark Awarded Pharmacy Contract

February 16, 2010: The state's Group Insurance Commission (GIC) has voted to contract with CVS Caremark as the agency's new pharmacy benefits manager. The three-year contact will take affect on July 1, 2010.

CVS Caremark replaces longtime pharmacy manager Express Scripts, which has held the GIC contract to provide drug benefits under the Indemnity, OME and other UniCare plans for the past eight years. GIC officials believe that CVS Caremark is better suited to provide pharmacy benefits management and enhanced services.

Association Urges Freeze Of Medicare Rates For All

National Coalition Eyes Senate Action

NOVEMBER 10, 2009: With Medicare Part B rates set to increase by over 14% in 2010 for those who pay the premium directly or just recently enrolled in the federal program, the Association is urging our state's Congressional delegation to quickly pass H.R. 3631. The bill would freeze the Medicare Part B premium at the current $96.40 monthly premium.

State’S Pension Fund Gets Big Lift

Earned 14.32% Over 9 Months

OCTOBER 27, 2009: There's good news at the Commonwealth's Pension Reserves Investment Management (PRIM) Board.

PRIM has released its Year 2009 investment earnings report through the third quarter of this year showing a 14.32 percent return. The month of September was especially strong, with a 3.45% return, giving hope for a possible 20% return for the year if the strong market continues.

Association Pitches Cola Solution

White: "Time Is Now To Increase Base"

OCTOBER 27, 2009: On Monday, Association President Ralph White proposed a sweeping cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) reform measure to the Joint Committee on Public Service , which heard testimony on a litany of bills aimed at increasing retiree pensions.

While much testimony was presented on the need for a COLA base increase, White focused his remarks on a specific plan, formulated by our Association, which would incrementally increase the COLA base from the current $12,000 to a new $18,000 level. The increase would be rolled into the long-term pension funding schedules, which are about to be extended to accommodate fluctuations in the financial markets.

Down Economy Pushes Revenues Lower

State Eyes $900 Million In New Cuts

OCTOBER 10, 2009: If state tax revenues are any indication, Massachusetts is a long way from returning to fiscal stability anytime soon. Just three months into the 2010 fiscal year, the Commonwealth is some $900 million in the red.

As a result, Governor Patrick, along with Legislative Leaders have said that they are likely to make cuts in the existing budget. Following on the heels of over $2 billion in cuts in FY09, further spending reductions could prove devastating to programs funded by the state, as well through local aid.

Health Fairs Set For Sheriff/turnpike Retirees

Will Join State GIC February 1

OCTOBER 9, 2009: Starting February 1, retirees from the Mass Turnpike Authority, as well as from the Barnstable, Bristol, Dukes, Nantucket, Norfolk, Plymouth and Suffolk County Sheriff Departments will receive their health insurance coverage from the state's Group Insurance Commission (GIC). Open enrollment for the GIC plans runs November 2-20th, 2009.

In preparation of this transfer, the GIC is about to hold a series of Health Fairs that are designed to assist retirees in their selection of a new health insurance provider. Unfortunately for those retirees accustomed to being insured with Blue Cross Blue Shield, the BCBS is not a provider under the state plan. However, the GIC does offer ten different non-Medicare and nine Medicare plans from which to choose.

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA TEACHERS REACH OUT

Join With Association To Repeal WEP/GPO

NOVEMBER 2009: The world is truly flat when it comes to modern economics, as well as politics. With the information age of computers providing instant access to information, partnerships and coalitions are being formed that were unlikely just a few years ago.

This summer the Association was contacted by The Grassroots Committee for Social Security Fairness , which is a Northern California based teachers' organization formed this spring. Their goal, like that of our Association, is to repeal the Social Security Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO).