On January 18, 2018, the Group Insurance Commission (GIC) voted to drastically restrict health care plan options to both current and retired public employees. The only remaining options for current employees are UniCare, Neighborhood Health Plan, and Health New England, while the options for retirees are even more limited – UniCare or Tufts Health Plan.
This news came as a shock to everyone, thanks to a complete lack of transparency. The GIC didn’t give any advance warning that this vote was even taking place. In fact, the Commissioners themselves did not even receive the proposed changes until the night before the vote.
In a Letter to the GIC sent to the GIC Chair, Ms. Valerie Sullivan, State Representative Robert M. Koczera expressed, “concern over the process the [GIC] employed,” and argued that these proceedings, “should [have] been conducted in the open with an opportunity for public input and with full transparency.” Noting that this decision affects nearly half of all MA public employees, Koczera continues by agreeing with MA Attorney General Maura Healey that the $20 million in savings is, “insufficient to justify the widespread disruption that will be caused,” and concluded by urging the GIC to reconsider its decision.
Additionally, the $20 million in savings is not even necessary. The GIC returned over $30 million to the State’s general fund last year from higher premiums you paid that exceeded health care claims and costs. And it is set to return over $40 million to the state because costs are, again, below spending levels.
Furthermore, nine State University presidents, along with APA, MSCA, and AFSCME have drafted a letter to legislative leaders asking for an inquiry and for them to encourage the GIC to reverse its decision or, if the GIC refuses, to take action.
On February 1st, the GIC will review and approve benefit designs for the plans the carriers will offer. Believe it or not, we haven’t even been told what these will be yet!
However, as a result of the massive outcry over this decision, the GIC is now recommending that the Commissioners at their February 1st meeting vote to reconsider this decision and, if this passes, the Commissioners will vote to reinstate all of the health insurance carrier options that were just eliminated, including Fallon Health, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, and Tufts Health Plan.
We need to continue putting pressure on the GIC to reverse its decision and to make the entire process transparent to the public.
There are many ways you can help:
1. The MTA will hold an emergency meeting on Tuesday, January 30th at 5:00 pm in the Boston Teachers Union Hall (located at 180 Mount Vernon St., Boston, MA 02125). Help spread the word and join us as we demand:
- The carrier decision be reversed
- A freeze on the plan design with no changes or cost shifts
- An increase in the number of labor/consumer reps as GIC Commissioners to a majority (all labor representatives voted against the change last week, but the measure still passed)
More information about this event, including the talking points and legislative goals, can be found here.
2. Speak at the GIC Public Hearings. While the GIC will be considering major changes to health care benefits in about a year, this is our opportunity to push back and let them what benefits you need and deserve.
There will be two hearings in Boston at the Charles Hurley Building, Minihan Hall, 19 Staniford Street, MA 02114.
They will be held on:
- Thursday, January 25th, 11:30 am – 1:00 pm
- Monday, January 29th, 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm
There will be other hearings held in Lowell, Cape Cod, and other locations. Information on how to register to speak at these and more information can be found here. Talking points for the hearings can be found here.
However, if you can’t make these meetings, you can still send your comments to the GIC through this link.
3. Attend the Senate Committee on Ways & Means public hearing on Wednesday, January 31st at 11:00 am in the Gardner Auditorium at the State House regarding the GIC’s recent vote.
If you have any questions, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(The information provided in this post comes fliers, messages, letters, and more from Suzanne Wall, Director of Higher Education for the MTA, Marlene Kim, Faculty Staff Union President, and others.)