Major changes proposed to State Retiree Health Benefit

You may have heard the announcement by Governor Patrick earlier this year regarding proposals that would affect the State Retiree Health Benefit. The proposed changes could significantly impact the majority of SHARE members at UMMS. According to Governor Patrick's letter attached to the bill itself, the cuts are in response to the fact that the benefit currently represents more than a 40 billion dollar unfunded liability for Massachusetts, and we have heard figures that reach $83.6 billion. They pertain only to the Retiree Health benefit, and do not affect the pension system

Under the proposal, current retirees will not be affected. However, the affect on most current employees would be dramatic, including: 

  • Minimum age of eligibility for retiree health care benefits increased by 5 years (for SHARE members, from 55 to 60).
  • Minimum years of service will be increased from 10 to 20 years for vesting in the retiree health benefit.
  • Benefit prorated from 50% premium contribution at 20 years, and would not match the current maximum current retiree benefit (80%) until 30 years. 
  • The change would impact all future SHARE employees, as well as all current employees, except (i) those with 20 years of service and within 5 years of pension eligibility as of July 1 2013; and, (ii) those within 5 years of Medicare eligibility and with a minimum of 9 years of creditable service as of July 1, 2013. 

Though the bill was originally scheduled to go into effect in July of this year, the timeline appears to have slowed down. The bill is currently being considered by the Joint Committee on Public Service. This Committee has not yet set its 2013 Public Hearing schedule; however, we understand that the first hearing is likely to take place in September or October.

SHARE leadership is currently at work to determine what possibilities could be created to protect the Retiree Health benefit for SHARE members. We are consulting with other unions and State employee groups, including UMass and UMass Medical School, to ally our efforts with other groups. We will provide more information and developments on this blog, as well as at SHARE Information Meetings.

Perhaps the best online news source for developments in the proposal can be found on the Mass Retirees website.

We recommend all SHARE members become familiar with the online summary of the effects of the bill.

You can also read the full text of MA H59 in all of its legalistic detail.

More to come . . .