Eliminating Collective Bargaining will not Solve Municipal Health Insurance Crisis
BOSTON – Responding to Speaker Sal DiMasi’s announcement this week that he plans to file a bill that would amend the recently passed Group Insurance Commission (GIC) law, Robert B. McCarthy, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts (PFFM), reiterated the union’s strong opposition of taking health insurance out of collecting bargaining and allowing municipalities to unilaterally join the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Group Health Insurance Plan.
“There is no one-size-fits-all approach to healthcare and stripping employees of their collective bargaining rights would roll the clock back 50 years in progress made in labor-management relations in Massachusetts,” McCarthy said. “Quality healthcare is of vital importance to not only firefighters, but teachers, police officers and other municipal leaders, and each city and town should be able to decide their best option.”
Chapter 67, known as the GIC option, was approved by the Legislature last year and allows municipalities to enter the GIC on October 1st of each year after negotiating the change and with at least 70% approval by public employee unions and retirees. Speaker DiMasi’s bill would unilaterally require employees to receive their health insurance through the GIC without union approval.
The PFFM released a white paper, Municipal Employee Health Insurance: The GIC Option, in October which examined the differences between the GIC and municipal plan. Health care benefits are often a key component of an employee’s benefit package. A survey of PFFM Locals found that nearly 70% pay more than 20% of the premium cost. In fact almost 20% of the Locals pay 50% of the premium. The white paper suggests alternative cost-saving preventable measures for cities and towns, such as implementing aggressive wellness and disease management programs, joining purchasing groups to pool their expenses, and managing their health claims trust funds.
“Considering our hazardous occupation - with the increase of co-pays, deductibles, utilization fees, outpatient surgery, prescription drugs and mental health cost - a member could see their out-of-pocket cost reach several thousand dollars a year in the unfortunate event that they become sick or injured,” McCarthy continued. “As firefighters, we have a moral obligation not to allow this to happen to one of our brothers or sisters. We risk enough from daily exposures to sickness, toxins and hazards; we should not have to risk our financial security!”
As Chapter 67 enters year two, the current law should be maintained so that all municipal employees have a say in their health benefits. “Firefighters were proud to work alongside municipal and state leaders to pass a law that gives communities options and still gives employees a seat at the table. We must have faith in our municipal leaders, their employees, and the local unions, to have the foresight to see the options and ultimately make the decision that is best for them,” McCarthy concluded.
The Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts represent more than 12,000 professional fire fighters from across the Commonwealth. More information can be found at www.pffm.org. Website members may find the White Paper titled PFFM Position Paper on Health Care Bargaining in the Downloads area under Member Resources.