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And then, nothing happened

With apologies to one of my favorite Monty Python sketches:


In February, March, and April, I wrote a series of posts about a serious issue with the Massachusetts municipal health care system.  These were spurred by articles in the Globe by investigative reporter Sean Murphy.  Sean's first article is here, and my first post on the subject is here.

Here's a short summary:  If you like in Massachusetts, chances are that your city or town has had a very rapid growth in the share of its budget that is used to pay health care costs.  In addition to the health care inflation we all feel, many cities and towns have very sweet deals for their employees: very low or no co-pays, very high benefit levels, very low employee contribution toward premium costs, and the ability to get health care for life after a small number of years of service.  In addition, many cities and towns don't force retirees onto Medicare after age 65, instead paying their health care costs until they die.

The biggest obstacle to fixing this has been the cities and towns' ability to negotiate with municipal employee unions on changes to their health care plans.  Most haven't been able to get their unions to give up the sweet deal they have.  Instead, cities and towns have asked the Legislature to allow them to unilaterally change their health care plan as long as they make it no worse than the state employee union plan.  Although it would be better if each city and town cleaned up their own mess (as my town did), that task seems so daunting that it would be better for the tax payers in the State if the Legislature allowed a unilateral change.

Unfortunately, the effort to fix this problem died a quiet death in our legislature at the end of June.  Sean wrote about it in the Globe at the time, but I missed it.  I wrote to my Representative (Charlie Murphy, who has replied very thoughtfully in the past), but he has not yet replied.  I'm disappointed that this opportunity to make our tax dollars go further has been lost for now.

In the meantime, keep after your city or town to negotiate for a more reasonable health care plan with the municipal employees.  Some towns are getting this done, and it is critical for both our fiscal health and to let us allocate our tax dollars to more urgent priorities.


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