WILMINGTON, MA — Below is an editorial from State Rep. Jim Miceli:
Over the last few weeks I, and many public employees, have been wondering and fighting a radical, unprecedented, and frankly reprehensible move by the Group Insurance Commission (GIC), which oversees the health and dental policy insurance plans for public employees. For those who may not know after a late-night meeting of the GIC board, with almost no notice of the agenda to many members, the majority of the board of the GIC voted to drop three of the largest, highest rated plans. These plans are nothing short of critical, and covered over 200,000 firefighters, teachers, social workers, and even retirees. Those enrolled before on these popular plans, either Harvard Pilgrim, Tufts Health Plan, or Fallon Community Health Plan, would be forced to chose from a limited three options, one of which only covers health facilities in Worcester county. Perhaps most insulting is that no alternatives to this radical move were considered to this “cost-cutting” measure; the board did not even discuss perhaps allowing the member to pay the average less-than $5 dollars per month average increase out of pocket themselves. One constituent spoke to me about how the medicine for his young daughter would run tens of thousands of dollars a year in a truly heartbreaking tale. Needless to say, many including myself, wondered exactly what the you-know-what the board was thinking.
Thankfully, it seems things are moving in the right direction. After protest from myself, many of my colleague, workers, and the public the board has announced that they will reconsider the decision at their next board meeting. Many unions, including the SEIU, NAGE, and the MTA rose to fight the changes, rallying literally thousands of people to voice their stories of how this change would impact them. While it is great news that the board may fix their mistake, I believe there is a stark difference between a promise to reconsider and a promise to reinstate. We don’t need consideration, we need a commitment to a “yes.”
In addition, we in the legislature have begun examining what we may implement to prevent such a radical change from happening so quickly and suddenly again. Representative James O’Day has begun breaking ground on legislation that I have already pledged my support for. In addition, Senator Friedman has launched her own research to complement the proposed House of Representatives bill to ensure that such a cloak and dagger vote would not happen again. Discussions with constituents, labor unions, and the companies have proven well so far, with all three parties looking to maintain the current system, which offers competition, coverage, and flexibility. While paring down plans down is claimed to save costs, it exposes the state, public employees, and public at large to price gouging later, as the contracts offered expire anywhere from three to five years later. It is a very clear case of penny-wise, pound foolish in the grandest scheme.
Our teachers, firefighters, and public employees did not choose their careers to pursue fame and fortune. Instead they give to the public every day, risking their lives, teaching the next generation, or helping the least fortunate. This abrupt and cowardly vote to pull the coverage from 200,000 individuals is a slap in the face to all of them, and I will do everything in the House of Representatives to support those impacted and ensure that coverage is restored, and such a vote does not happen again.
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