Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A 'Deeply Flawed' Health Care Compromise

The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation (MTF) is weighing in against the compromise health care plan design language included in the Senate's FY2011 budget, calling the proposal "so deeply flawed that it should not be included in the final budget unless it is dramatically improved."

In a letter sent to Senate President Therese Murray, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, and the six budget conferees, MTF President Michael Widmer called on the conferees to "reject the Senate proposal and take decisive action to provide real relief to municipalities" to ensure that communities can "protect municipal jobs and services."

During last month's budget debate, the Senate Republican Caucus offered an amendment that would have granted cities and towns plan design powers and the flexibility to change health care co-pays and deductibles for municipal employees without having to go through the collective bargaining process for approval. Under this plan, communities would collectively save $100 million, or enough money to save the equivalent of between 1,070 and 1,630 teachers, firefighters and police officers, according to the Beacon Hill Institute.

The amendment that passed the Senate, however, was a watered-down plan requiring only 25 percent of the cost savings to go to municipalities, 25 percent to municipal employees, and left the distribution of the remaining 50 percent to be determined through collective bargaining and potential arbitration. All five Caucus members rejected this proposal, which passed on a vote of 20-17.

"The choice is clear -- give cities and towns the tools to manage their health plans and save thousands of jobs, or preserve some form of collective bargaining and guarantee that these teachers and public safety workers will lose their jobs," Widmer wrote. "Potential savings from health care alone dwarf savings from the entire package of 'municipal relief' proposals passed by the House and Senate."