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LOCAL INSURANCE POWERHOUSE

Blue Cross Long Held As Gold Standard

JANUARY 2008: With pressure on local government to control the rising cost of health care at an all-time high, much attention has been brought to the insurance companies that provide the coverage for tens of thousands of local retirees and employees.

STATE DEFICIT EYED IN FY 2009

DECEMBER 18, 2007: Economists and state tax officials have cautioned legislative leaders and the Patrick Administration that the Commonwealth may be on the verge of a recession, with a budget shortfall almost certain for Fiscal Year 2009. However, while the state may undergo some fiscal belt tightening, state officials have made it clear that an early retirement incentive (ERI) is not being considered.

2007 LEGISLATIVE HEARINGS COMPLETE

December 2, 2007: The Joint Committee on Public Service has completed its formal hearing process for the year. All 18 Association bills have now had a public hearing and are awaiting further action at various stages within the legislative process.

TEACHER ELECTION UNDERWAY

NOVEMBER 9, 2007: TEACHERS’ RETIREMENT BOARD ELECTION ENDORSEMENT:

DOW & MITCHELL ENDORSED

The Association is pleased to announce the endorsements of John "Jay" Dow and Karen Mitchell for election to the Massachusetts Teachers' Retirement Board. This election is now underway, with ballots having now been mailed to all retired and active teachers, who are members of the MA Teachers Retirement System (Boston teachers are members of the City of Boston Retirement System and are not members of the MTRS).

A REGRETFUL ANNOUNCEMENT

Billy Rehrey
Billy Rehrey

OCTOBER 22, 2007: We regret to announce the death of Billy Rehrey (age 25), son of Association Executive Vice President/Legal Counsel Bill Rehrey and grandson of Association President Ralph White, died suddenly of a heart attack, while watching Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, at a family gathering on Sunday night.

Update: We wish to thank the many members and friends who sent condolence cards on behalf of the sudden death of Billy Rehrey, the son of Association Legal Counsel/Vice President Bill Rehrey and grandson of Association President Ralph White. The funeral was very uplifting on a sunny autumn day with surrounding foliage at its peak. Also, we thank those who donated to the Cardiac Clinical Research Fund at Children’s Hospital.

 

                                Bill Rehrey        Ralph White

 

LOCAL INSURANCE DEADLINE EXTENDED

OCTOBER 12, 2007: Governor Deval Patrick and legislative leaders have agreed to extend the deadline for local governments to join the state's Group Insurance Commission to October 29, 2007. Originally, an October 1, 2007 deadline existed under the law. However, due to local interest in joining the GIC and the fact that negotiations are underway in a number of local communities, state leaders opted to extend the deadline.

OPTION C STUDY EYED

OCTOBER 5, 2007: Members who retired prior to July 1, 2004 and chose an Option C pension remain outraged over the issue of the outdated mortality used to calculate their pension. Legislation moved forward this week that could bring about a resolution to the issue.

STATE RETIREMENT BOARD ELECTION

Ballots will shortly be sent to all members of the State Retirement System for a very important election.

Association President Ralph White is running for re-election to a new three-year term as one of the two elected members of the State Retirement Board. The second elected seat is currently being held by Theresa McGoldrick. Her term will not expire this year.

Ralph White, the senior member of the Board, wishes to remind all retired state employees of the importance of this election. He is the only state retiree on the five-member Board. The following statement is from Mr. White:

“Retirees need an experienced member on the Board upon whom they can count to look out for their best interests and those of their survivors, someone who will fight on their behalf, both at the Retirement Board and at the Legislature.

“There are seven candidates in this case. In a random pick for ballot position, I am fifth. You will see the word incumbent next to my name. Do not take this election for granted. Please take the time to return your ballot as instructed so that it will be registered and be counted. Your vote is very important to all retirees even though they may belong to one of our other retirement systems.

“I have devoted my life to you and all public retirees of this state. All I ask is that you, as a member of the State Retirement System, spend $0.41 (postage stamp) so that I can continue to represent you at the State Retirement Board and in turn continue to lead our crusade for members and survivors of the Commonwealth’s retirement systems.”

Thank you very much.

Ralph White

Note to active state employees: “While I am a retired state employee, I also represent you on the State Retirement Board. Theresa McGoldrick, my counterpart, who is the other elected member on the Board, works with me as a team. She does an excellent job on behalf of the members of our system. You, as well as our retirees, can reach me at 617-723-7283 at anytime if you have a pension question or problem. I would greatly appreciate your vote. Check with your agency or department office for ballots.”

Thank you,

Ralph White

STATE RETIREMENT BOARD ELECTION

Ralph WhiteBallots will shortly be sent to all members of the State Retirement System for a very important election.

Association President Ralph White is running for re-election to a new three-year term as one of the two elected members of the State Retirement Board. The second elected seat is currently being held by Theresa McGoldrick. Her term will not expire this year.

Ralph White, the senior member of the Board, wishes to remind all retired state employees of the importance of this election. He is the only state retiree on the five-member Board. The following statement is from Mr. White:

KERRY AGREES TO SUPPORT WEP/GPO HEARINGS

SEPTEMBER 12, 2007: After hearing the outcry of Association members, outraged by the lack of federal action on the issues of WEP/GPO repeal, US Senator John Kerry has agreed to support our Association’s request to hold public hearings on the issue of Social Security this fall.

RETIREES OUTRAGED OVER SOCIAL SECURITY STANCE

AUGUST 24, 2007:   The phones in the Association’s Boston office have been ringing white hot with calls from retirees who are outraged by the refusal of Senator John Kerry to hold a public hearing on the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO), as we reported in the September Voice. Many members have notified the Association that they contacted the Senator’s office to express their concern and repeated our request for a public hearing.

July COLA Paid on Schedule

SEPT 2007 - Members of the State and Teachers’ Retirement Systems, as well as those of our 104 local retirement systems, received their new 3% cost-of-living increase this July.

Powerful House Chair Calls For Hearing

Sept 2007 - Spells Out Need - In sharp contrast to the position taken in the U.S. Senate, where a 2007 hearing on Social Security has been all but ruled out, leaders in the House of Representatives are not shying away from addressing the dreaded Social Security offset laws.

Advancing the prospect of full hearings in the House on the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO) is House Ways and Chairman Charles Rangel. The powerful New York Democrat has publicly called for hearings to take place, during the current Congressional session, on the issue.

COLA PAYMENTS IN JULY CHECKS

AUGUST 1, 2007: Once again, we are pleased to announce that members retired from each of the 106 retirement systems across Massachusetts did receive a 2007 COLA in their July pension check. The full 3% COLA was approved by each of the 104 local retirement boards for local retirees, as well as by the state legislature for state and teacher retirees.

WAYS AND MEANS CHAIRMAN CALLS FOR HEARING ON WEP/GPO REPEAL

July 6, 2007 (Washington, DC): House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-NY) has called for a hearing on H.R.82, the foremost legislation, supported by the Association, that repeals Social Security’s WEP (Windfall Elimination Provision) and GPO (Government Pension Offset) laws. Chairman Rangel did so in a letter just sent to the Social Security Subcommittee and its chairman, Congressman Michael McNulty, who is also from New York, representing the Albany area. The chairman’s letter had been issued after he met with the leading Democratic sponsor of H.R.82, California Congressman Howard Berman. (The leading Republican sponsor is another Californian, Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon.)

HOUSE AND SENATE ENACT GIC MUNICIPAL HEALTH INSURANCE BILL

July 2, 2007: After years of negotiations, involving our Association, both the House and Senate have enacted legislation that will allow municipalities to join the state health insurance program, administered by the Group Insurance Commission (GIC). “We believe that once it’s enacted, the GIC Municipal Health Insurance Law will offer a viable option to local retirees, unions and officials as they attempt to solve the ever-increasing costs of healthcare,” states Legislative Chairman Bill Hill.

MEDICARE SAVING STATE NEARLY $400 MILLION

Retirees, enrolled in Medicare Part B, saved the state’s Group Insurance Commission (GIC) nearly $400 million in FY06.

With the average cost of non-Medicare retirees coming in at nearly four times higher than Medicare enrollees, the state’s mandatory-Medicare policy continues to be a windfall for the Commonwealth…but at what cost to retirees? Our answer: The state is cheating retirees by not paying a dime toward a major portion of their insurance costs, namely the Part B premium.

Nearly five years have now passed since then-Acting Governor Jane Swift eliminated the state’s Medicare Part B reimbursement with the stroke of her pen. As a result, members, insured under the state’s Group Insurance Commission (GIC), are forced to pay 100% of the Medicare Part B premium out of their own pockets.

KERRY CENTRAL TO WEP/GPO DEBATE

2007 JULY - As the new chairman of the US Senate’s Subcommittee on Social Security, Bay State Senator John Kerry now finds himself in a pivotal role in the debate over the future of the federal retirement program.

COLA BILL ADVANCES TO SENATE

2007 JULY - $16,000 Base Would Be Indexed - In a bold move, the Joint Committee on Public Service favorably reported the Association’s marquis bill, raising the COLA base, to the Senate on May 14.The bill, now S2234, not only raises the COLA base for state and teacher retirees to $16,000, but also allows local retirement systems to increase the COLA base to any level above the current $12,000 by allowing for adjustments in the long-term pension funding schedules.

DISABILITY REEXAM BILL ADVANCES

JUNE 8, 2007: The
Joint Committee on Public Service favorably released H2510, which limits the
reexamination and reevaluation of disability retirees to the first ten years of
retirement. H2510 was filed by Representative David Flynn (D-Bridgewater) and
Senator Michael Knapik (R-Westfield) on behalf of our Association.

BUDGET WILL INCLUDE 3% COLA

MAY 29, 2007:   The Massachusetts Senate has completed its work on
the Fiscal-Year 2008 state budget, which includes a 3% COLA for state and
teacher retirees. While legislation is advancing that would create a higher
base in future years, the base for the July 2007 COLA remains at $12,000.

PUBLIC SERVICE COMMITTEE RAISES COLA BASE TO $16,000

May 11, 2007:
Marking the first important step, the Joint Public Service Committee, chaired
by Rep. Jay Kaufman (D-Lexington) and Sen. Ben Downing (D-Piffsfield) has
approved the Association’s centerpiece legislation, raising the COLA Base.

The
bill, now S1586, includes several Association proposals, most importantly,
raising the Base for state and teacher retirees to $16,000 and allowing local
retirement systems to increase their Base to any level above the current
$12,000, through adjustments in their pension funding schedules.

COLA ACCEPTANCE UPDATE

May 4, 2007: To date,
eighty-eight of the state’s 104 local retirement systems have approved a new 3%
COLA to be paid this July. With the remaining sixteen retirement systems
scheduled to vote in May and June, we are well on our way to having 100%
adoption of the 2007 COLA.

Madeline Sullivan Passes On

2007 MAY - Shortly before going to press, we received word that Association Secretary Madeline Sullivan had passed away after a lengthy illness.

Sullivan was a true pioneer of group insurance here in Massachusetts. In 1956, she was one of the first people hired by State Group Insurance Commission Director Bill Burke. Burke himself had just been appointed by Governor Christian Herter to head the new agency created in October 1955.

PATRICK BUDGET CONTAINS 3% COLA

2007 MAY - Governor Deval Patrick did not make the same mistake that former Governor Mitt Romney did in his first year as governor.