It’s not often that SHARE heads up Beacon Hill to knock on the doors of elected officials. However, Governor Baker’s House 1 FY2016 Budget Recommendation includes a change in the GIC Health Insurance plans to increase employee contributions from 20% to 25%, regardless of date of hire. In response, SHARE Representatives came to the State House as part of an AFL-CIO Union Lobby Day to educate legislators about this proposal, and ask them to oppose it.
Union members and representatives came from across Massachusetts to participate. We footed up and around the labyrinthine halls to meet with legislators representing Central Massachusetts and many of their senior staffers. Along the way, we met other union representatives from Central Massachusetts, including women from the Court system and the Mass DOT. (In one particular meeting-- where I happened to be the only man present--the others happily joked “Did you ever think you’d see the day when unions were 95% women?”) We traveled with these other groups to some of the legislators’ offices together, carrying our common interests. One woman explained that, since a procedure two years ago for chronic illness, she would have to regularly take six medications for the rest of her life; she calculates that Baker’s Budget Recommendation would cost her an additional $150 per month, just for these medications.
The change would significantly increase out-of-pocket costs for all State employees, some of whom already ration essential treatment due to cost. Coupled with premium rates that will increase by as much as 9%, this change would cost many families as much as $1,500 next year. On top of that, the GIC has already approved increases to employee co-pays and deductibles that will further increase out-of-pocket costs. Taken together, these changes represent $160 million of increased costs for employees next year.
One particular highlight was our visit with Senate Majority Leader Harriet Chandler, who invited us into her office, and spoke with us thoughtfully about the issue. She pointed out to us that her roles in the State government over the years have provided her a particularly informed understanding of healthcare and insurance issues in Massachusetts, and explained that we had nonetheless provided her with new insights, while graciously thanking us for information that would be useful to her voting decisions.
We can expect more cost-shifting to public employees to come under the current administration. You can participate by encouraging your local legislators to oppose the Governor’s current budget proposal. You can find the leaders of local cities and towns online. Tell them the story of what the change would mean for you and your family. Below you’ll find more details you can pass along.
- A proposal in Governor Baker’s FY 2016 budget recommendation seeks to raise the share of health insurance premiums paid by many state workers by 25 percent.
- Roughly 45,000 workers would go from an employer/employee premium split of 80/20 to 75/25.
- If implemented, the cost of a family health insurance plan through the Group Insurance Commission (GIC) would increase by as much as $1,500 next year.
- This change represents a cost-shift of $34 million onto state workers.
- Our out-of-pocket costs are already going up next year through increases to employee co-pays and deductibles, and higher annual premiums that the GIC has already approved.
- The average premium for a GIC health plan will increase by 5.7% next year, with some increasing by as much as 9%
- In total, these changes represent $160 million in increased costs on state workers in FY 2016.
- The state has already achieved significant savings by increasing co-pays and deductibles paid by workers.
- Rather than raise costs on workers even further, the AFL/CIO advocates that some of these savings should be used to lower premium contribution for employees hired after 2003 who are currently paying 25 percent, and equalizing all state employees at a 20 percent premium contribution.