State Government

GIC Insurance Update

SHARE, along with other state employee unions, has been lobbying the State Legislature against increasing the percent of health insurance costs paid by employees and retirees. Many thanks to the SHARE members who emailed or called their state legislators! It looks like we may be successful. We will know for sure when the budget is finalized.

Governor Baker introduced the increases in his budget for the coming year. Under his plan there would be two big changes:
  1. State employees who retire after 6/30/16 would have a 75/25 premium split for retiree health insurance
  2. State employees hired before 6/30/2003 would have a 75/25 premium split for their health insurance (they are currently"grandfathered" at the old 80/20 split) 
So far the House and Senate have rejected these cost-shifting proposals. 

This is good news for us, although it is not yet final because the House and Senate now have to reconcile their two slightly different overall budget proposals. Since they don't disagree about the GIC, we are hopeful that there won't be any changes to that section of the budget. 

We will keep you posted.



----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
FY17 Budget Timeline - GIC Overview
  • February Governor's budget ($1,078,340,881)
    • $27M increase from FY16 budget ($1,051,480,303) 
    • includes increased cost estimate from GIC, partially offset by savings from shifting costs onto employees and retirees:
      • state employees hired before 6/30/2003 - increase premium share from 20% to 25% (est $30M savings)
      • future state retirees - increase premium share from 20% to 25% for anyone retiring after 6/30/16 (est $3M savings)
  • April House Ways and Means budget ($1,111,340,881)
    • no cost shifting 
    • $33M more than Governor's budget
  • April House Budget (1,080,123,761)
    • agrees with HW&M structure: no cost shifting
    • takes into account new, lower cost estimate from GIC (est $31M savings)
  • May Senate Ways and Means budget ($1,080,123,761)
    • no cost shifting
    • very similar to House
  • May Senate budget (1,080,123,761)
    • no change from SW&M
  • June House and Senate Conference Committee
    • have to reconcile the differences between the House budget and Senate budget
    • they don't have differences between them on the GIC
    • we are not completely done and safe until they have a final agreement and Governor Baker signs it
Information summarized from Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center http://www.massbudget.org/budget.php. 
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Don't Raise Health Costs for State Workers!

Governor Baker's latest budget proposal includes changes that will affect State employees--including SHARE members at UMMS--by requiring employees to increase their Health Insurance contribution. We ask you to urge your State Representative to reject this unfair cost-shifting.  According to the Massachusetts AFL-CIO Action Network:
The FY 2017 budget proposal put forward by Governor Baker asks the legislature to raise the Group Insurance Commission (GIC) premium contribution rates for active state workers hired prior to July 1, 2003 and retired workers who leave the workforce after June 30, 2016 from 20 percent to 25 percent. State workers would face a substantial financial impact as a result of this change.
When a similar threat was made to insurance rates last year, SHARE members lobbied on Beacon Hill to defend against the bait-and-switch for longer-service employees. SHARE believes that if you put in your years to the State, you should pay the same percentage of your health insurance in retirement as when you were working. This issue affects all SHARE members at UMMS: if we allow lawmakers to go back on this deal made in 2003, it sets a bad precedent, and could weaken all agreements already negotiated with the state.
Thank you for participating by using this link. You just need to enter your name, e-mail, home address and a customizable letter template will pop-up, addressed to your own local lawmakers. (See the full text below.) If you have any questions, you can contact the SHARE union at 508-929-4020 or share.umms@theshareunion.org
Dear [your local Representative will be automatically addressed here],


The FY 2017 budget proposal put forward by Governor Baker asks the legislature to raise the Group Insurance Commission (GIC) premium contribution rates for active state workers hired prior to July 1, 2003 and retired workers who leave the workforce after June 30, 2016 from 20 percent to 25 percent. State workers would face a substantial financial impact as a result of this change, and I hope you and fellow legislators will reject the Governor’s proposal which seeks to balance the budget on the backs of hard-working families.


Even without changes to premium contributions, workers who receive their health insurance from the GIC have been facing growing out-of-pocket costs for their care. Plan design changes implemented by the Group Insurance Commission that have raised co-pays and deductibles have resulted in a significant shifting of costs from employer to employee over the past decade. A review of GIC total plan cost data performed by the Milliman Actuarial firm shows that from 2007 – 2016, the true share of GIC health care costs paid by employees (premium contributions plus cost-sharing) now averages 37%, up from a rate of 28% in 2007[1]. An additional 25% increase to the premium share would result in cost increases of over $1,300 in FY 2017 for many families in premium costs alone[2].


In a budget proposal that does not raise taxes or fees elsewhere, this proposal from Governor Baker stands out as a notable exception. State workers and retirees face the same fiscal constraints as all other working families in this Commonwealth, and in fact have sacrificed especially greatly over the past decade as a result of the fiscal crisis and years of budget cuts. It is simply not fair to place an undue financial burden on this specific group of workers in an effort to balance the state budget.
I strongly urge you to oppose this proposal. Thank you for your consideration in this matter.


[1] Based on analysis of Tufts HealthPlan Navigator and the Unicare State Indemnity Plan Basic, plan designs effective July 1, 2006 and July 1, 2015.
[2] Based on FY 2016 premium rates for UniCare State Indemnity Family Plan

Five-Tidbit Friday: November 13th, 2015

RAISING MEN’S HEALTH AWARENESS
Roentgen2.jpg
Röntgen and his beard
It’s Movember! Both the “No Shave November” and “Movember” movements encourage men to abstain from the razor for thirty days in order to raise men’s health and cancer awareness. Unfortunately, it’s getting harder to tell which hair is charitable, and which is just garden-variety facial fluff.  
ROENTGENIUM
On November 8th, 1895, German physicist William Conrad Röntgen discovered X-rays. National Radiologic Technology Week is celebrated each year during the week of the anniversary of this discovery. Röntgen’s own unruly chin-growth predated the UK’s Decembeard event.
MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE in MASSACHUSETTS
According to the Boston Globe, the Massachusetts State Legislature’s Labor and Workforce Development Committee has put forward a bill to increase the minimum wage to fifteen dollars per hour. The introduction of the bill coincided with Fight for $15 demonstrations in over 270 cities, involving thousands of workers across the country. The bill still requires approval by the House, Senate, and Governor Charlie Baker.
HONORING VETERANS


Veterans’ Day was observed this week in Worcester and around the country. President Obama’s Veteran’s Day speech focused on jobs, as Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post writes:


“We’re in the midst of a new wave of American veterans,” said Obama, referring to a generation of men and women who have weathered the longest stretch of war in U.S. history. Those veterans have struggled in recent years to get care from an overwhelmed Department of Veterans Affairs. They’ve faced a higher unemployment rate than their civilian peers and an increase in suicides.
Here in Central Massachusetts, many work continually to honor the service of our Veterans, and to help them find ways to serve their country at home. The Worcester Veterans’ Services Division aims to supply local veterans with immediate financial aid, medical assistance, and referral services on issues such as housing, employment opportunities, health, and education. Notably, four of our area colleges and universities--Worcester State University, Fitchburg, Nichols College, and Mount Wachusett Community College--have been designated “military friendly” institutions.  


REMEMBERING VETERANS with PAUL JULIAN


Describing one particularly personal commemoration of our country’s veterans, former SHARE-UMMS president and UMMS Library Assistant Paul Julian writes: “On July 9, while on a walk, I stopped to read a Veteran's monument on Upsala Street in Worcester. I had read others on my walks, but this was special, because Richard Leo Jandron , for whom the memorial was erected, died from his wounds sustained in Cherbourg, France exactly 71 years before. I said a prayer for Gunner Mate Jandron, and it occurred to me that I should do this for every veteran who is so honored here in Worcester. Working with two lists, I learned that there were 237 such monuments here in Worcester. I decided to seek them out so that I could pray and reflect on the sacrifices these brave veterans made. I aimed to walk to all 237 monuments. Today, the day before Veterans Day, I journeyed to the last one on my list for Lt. Paul Adams, which is located on Sunderland Road here in Worcester. I have found this to be both a moving and illuminating experience. We owe so much to our veterans. May their sacrifices always be appreciated by us.”

See you here next Friday. Hope you have a very decent weekend . . .

Five-Tidbit Friday: October 2, 2015

This is the third installment of Five Tidbit Friday, and this week we’ve got news items ranging from near to far and back again.


  • CANCER WALK Congratulations to participants of this year’s cancer walk! The roughly thirteen thousand participants this year have raised nearly $400,000 for cancer research and care. 20150927_093855.jpg


  • RETIREE BENEFITS in the NEWS You may remember the now-defeated House Bill H59, which was designed to cut pension benefits from State Employees. That bill did not pass. However, we’ve been watching a similar situation in Rhode Island for employees of the state there, to better understand potential threats to public employee retirement plans. This week, the New York Times describes how that dispute played out, and the settlement between unions and the State.
  • FREE SPEECH at WORK In national news, an NLRB complaint against Quicken Loans could redefine the rules of free speech in the workplace, reports the Detroit Free Press. The case is likely to have implications for social media. The ruling is expected to uphold current standards, including that "employees have a ... right to discuss wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment with fellow employees, as well as with non-employees, such as union representatives." Meanwhile, the US Department of Labor has continued its emphasis on employee rights with a Worker Voice Summit, which will underscore the value of worker organizing and collective bargaining, as a new #starttheconvo initiative invites frontline voices from around the country into that conversation.
  • happymoose.jpeg

    INNOVATIONS in HEALTHCARE The Legal Services Corporation recently announced that Community Legal Aid in Worcester, Massachusetts will receive a 24-month $209,524 Pro Bono Innovation Fund grant to develop a partnership with UMass Memorial Medical Center. The model will address legal needs that can negatively impact the health of low-income and minority communities and interfere with healthcare providers’ ability to improve the health of these patients.
  • MOOSE! We hear that a moose has been recently seen on our local Worcester streets. Drive safe!


See you here next Friday. Hope you have a great weekend.



SHARE Opposes Proposed GIC Health Insurance Increases

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.


IMG_1698.JPGUnion 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.