One of the biggest fiscal challenges for cities and towns is the cost of health care benefits for retirees. The reform package proposed by Governor Patrick last week would curb some of the most egregious giveaways in the current system, which is out of whack with benefits for most private-sector retirees. It’s a significant step forward, but it also includes some concessions to state unions that would tie the hands of municipal governments. The Legislature should embrace the governor’s plan, and then improve it.
Everyone agrees that the current arrangement is too expensive in an era of more costly health care. At the local level, one need only work for 10 years — and then only in a part-time capacity — to be eligible for post-retirement health-care benefits. On average, municipalities pay about 75 percent of premiums for those benefits, which include health care plans until a retiree becomes eligible for Medicare and a so-called Medigap plan to supplement Medicare thereafter.