NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

April 24, 2012

Health insurance changes on the table again

AMESBURY — City and school unions will schedule votes or have already voted on whether to make further changes to their health insurance plans.

The outcome of the unions' votes could determine whether the city moves to the state's health insurance plan, known as the GIC.

"You never know how quickly or how they (the votes) are going to take," Mayor Thatcher Kezer said.

Last year, Beacon Hill and the governor approved legislation that was pushed by many mayors, including Kezer, to give mayors and town managers more power to reduce health care costs.

All the unions need to agree on the changes in order for them to be approved.

If one of the unions votes down the proposed plan, the city would stay with its current plan, or the mayor may move to go with the GIC.

The unions, the mayor and retirees have been meeting since last month.

If approved, it would be the third time in four years that the unions agreed to changes in their plan.

Last summer, the unions agreed to changes in their health insurance that saw a savings between $250,000 and $300,000.

The changes meant that the town went from a single health care plan with one co-pay across the board to a three-tiered plan where co-pays and deductibles depend on which facility is visited.

In 2009, the unions agreed to increase co-pays from $5 to $10, saving $300,000.

Health insurance is one of two issues the city administration and the unions will be dealing with.

Last summer, all of the town's unions agreed to contract extensions that had no pay increases.

"We're in negotiations," Kezer said.

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