Massachusetts officials said Wednesday that a new law designed to help municipalities and school districts reduce their health insurance costs has saved more than $175 million in premium costs for 127 municipalities and districts.
Administration and Finance Secretary Jay Gonzalez said the law, which was intended to “modernize benefit plan design” at the municipal level, was the result of “all stakeholders acknowledging the fact that high costs were crushing municipalities at the expense of services and jobs and that we needed a solution.”
“The political process is working in Massachusetts to make changes that needed to be made,” he said in a telephone conference call with reporters and other interested parties.
Thirty-five more communities have scheduled or taken votes to adopt the plans, he said, adding that officials expect that more to join them.
“There is a trend of more and more communities taking advantage of this opportunity,” he said.
Asked by a union official who was on the call if the law had simply shifted costs onto workers, he acknowledged that some would see higher costs.
But he also said the plan changes were consistent with those offered to state employees and consistent or better than those offered in the private sector.
He said the idea of the law was to provide health insurance to municipal workers while trying to “strike the right balance . . . to ensure that we aren’t compromising municipal jobs and services for taxpayers that they expect and deserve.”
In a statement, Massachusetts AFL-CIO president Steven A. Tolman said, “Municipal workers were part of the solution to deal with the problem of soaring health care costs.”
“However, the larger problem requires a more comprehensive fix than simply shifting who pays what share of costly health care,” Tolman said. “We look forward to being part of that solution, as well.”