Published On: April 25, 2011

Good day.

Today all city unions entered into an agreement with the city regarding the continuation of our health coverage, with some modification, for the next four years through July 1, 2015.

As you probably know, yesterday the House released its proposed budget for next year. The proposed budget, endorsed by Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo proposes the removal of health insurance from the realm of collective bargaining. Speaker DeLeo’s version of health insurance would allow cities and towns to have complete discretion to change plan design and to increase health insurance co-pays/deductibles without the need for collective bargaining. In other words, the DeLeo version would allow cities and towns to lessen health coverage and increase employee costs without any union agreement. Both the Senate President and the Governor have also called for drastic cost shifting in the field of health insurance, although they both agree that unions should have a seat at the table.

Given the uncertainty of how the changes proposed (statewide) in health insurance coverage will affect our members, the BTU entered into a coalition with all other city unions about six months ago. Our goal in this first-of-its-kind coalition was to come up with a plan with the city that would be fair to our members as well as mindful of skyrocketing health insurance costs.

After 15 or so bargaining sessions and meetings, all city unions agreed midday yesterday to a proposal that will raise our health insurance premium split 2 1/2 % over the next two years. There would be a 1.25% increase on July 1, 2011, and another 1.25% increase on July 1, 2012. These rates would stay in effect until 7/1/15. In addition, standard office visits to a primary care physician (and PT visits) would increase five dollars and visits to medical specialists would increase $15. Prescription costs would also increase,  as would emergency-room visits. Retiree Medicare-gap plans would increase by 1% on 7/1/15.

The proposed increases are significantly less then the additional costs that would be incurred were we forced to enter the state’s GIC plan (or a GIC-like plan). Forcing our members into the state’s GIC has been repeatedly proposed by a number of groups and organizations: the Boston Globe, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Boston Foundation. (See another Boston Foundation report as well.)

All plan offerings will otherwise remain intact, i.e, the same plans will be offered and the same coverage in each will continue AS IS, with one exception: Master Medical will no longer be offered to retirees.

The above is not an all-inclusive explanation of all of the proposed changes. The complete document is available here.

The above proposal was entered into in order to accomplish the goal of somewhat lessening the impact of skyrocketing health care costs on the city budget while shifting some of the financial burden in the fairest way possible to our members. To do nothing about the ever-increasing health care costs was not an option. Our goal was to make sure that the cost-shifting was done as fairly as possible. That we accomplished.

At the negotiating table we were represented by counsel and Boston Benefit Partners, which is arguably the preeminent health care consultant on behalf of employees in Massachusetts. We entered into this agreement after careful consideration of all aspects of the ever-changing health care debate. We join with the city in seeking a more effective and efficient way to deliver top-notch health care services to our membership. While this agreement does little or nothing to contain overall health care costs, it does provide for a fair way to share the municipal financial burden while we investigate how to control overall spending.

The BTU membership voted unanimously last evening to endorse this proposal. The BTU will offer explanatory sessions to all of our members as soon as they can be scheduled.

The BTU Online

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Richard Stutman
Boston Teachers Union

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