January 2012

New Studies Target Retirees

Association Appointed To Commissions

JANUARY 2012: Anyone hoping that the recently passed “Pension Reform III” (Chapter 176) would mark the end, at least for the foreseeable future, of further changes in pension and health insurance benefits will be sorely disappointed. Contained within the final pages of the new law is the establishment of four separate studies or commissions – all aimed at making greater changes to pension and health insurance benefits.

Pension Reform 3 Now Law

JANUARY 2012 VOICE: Chapter 176, landmark Pension Reform, signed into law by Governor Deval Patrick on November 18, brings to a close the longtime concept of a public pension plan that provides full pensions for long-term employees, but allows a reduced pension for anyone who must retire before age 60.

State & Teacher COLA Base Increased

JANUARY 2012 VOICE: As clearly evident from the lead story, our Association is disappointed at the outcome of the latest installment of Pension Reform, which, we believe, saddles future employees with the debt created by past generations of government officials who failed to properly fund the government’s share of pension obligations. In addition to seeking fair and equitable treatment for future government workers, we also strongly advocated our position that existing benefit inequalities be addressed through Pension Reform III.

Social Security WEP & GPO Forecast

JANUARY 2012 VOICE: With the Super Committee’s failure to reach a deal that would have reduced the federal deficit by at least $1.5 trillion over 10 years, will we see any major changes in either Social Security or Medicare before the November ‘12 national elections? Those changes would include any repeal or reform of Social Security’s Offset and Windfall Laws.

Public Service After Retirement

Earnings Cap Raised

JANUARY 2012 VOICE: Of interest to some members in the new Pension Reform law (Chapter 176), Senate leaders agreed to a floor amendment, sponsored by the Mass. Police Association and backed by our Association, that increases the part-time earnings limits for superannuation retirees who return to public service, on part-time basis, within Massachusetts government. Senator Michael Rodriques (D-Westport) carried the amendment on the Senate floor, which was unanimously accepted.

Mandatory Medicare Enrollment Now Law

JANUARY 2012 VOICE: Over the course of the two and a half years that the “old” Section 18A was law, Wilbraham wasn’t the only one to adopt it. Other communities also did, most notably the cities of Boston and Lowell.

“I received a two-page notice from the city (Boston) about switching over to Medicare,” retired firefighter Marty Fisher reports to us. “Local 718 (Boston Firefighters Union) has held meetings to help retirees with this.”

New Disability Earnings Reporting Law

JANUARY 2012 VOICE: Contained within the myriad of issues addressed by the new Pension Reform Law (Chapter 176, Acts of 2011) is a section that eases the annual reporting requirements of long-term disability retirees, in connection with earned income, if any, during a calendar year.

Gardner 1st To Implement New Insurance Law

Agreement Includes Premium Holiday

JANUARY 2012 VOICE: In our November Voice, we highlighted several of the communities that had adopted the new Municipal Health Insurance (MHI) law in order to join the state Group Insurance Commission (GIC). But, let’s not forget there is another major component to MHI, namely the option to make plan design changes (Section 22 of Chapter 32B). Gardner became the first municipality to implement the plan design option.

Locals Remain With GIC

JANUARY 2012 VOICE: Beginning July 1, 2009, the retirees, survivors and employees in 11 communities initiated their health insurance coverage with the state Group Insurance Commission (GIC). Whether their GIC coverage would continue for 3 or 6 years depended upon the agreement that had been reached between local officials and the PEC (Public Employee Committee).

October Snow Storm

JANUARY 2012 VOICE: When an unseasonable snowstorm accompanied by gale-force winds slammed into Massachusetts on October 30, nearly a million households were again without electricity up to a week or longer.

It was only three months earlier that tropical storm Irene had caused havoc in much of Massachusetts, making October’s blast a double-whammy when followed by a cold snap of below freezing nights. This left those members without a heat source in some peril.