City workers and retirees, forced last November to buy health insurance from the state, are protesting a decision by the Group Insurance Commission to lock them out of one of their preferred plans.
Although they weren’t happy with Mayor James J. Fiorentini’s decision to move them into lower cost state plans—and many were especially concerned about the loss of Blue Cross coverage—union members took some solace in being able to choose among seven alternate health plans. Anthony Parolisi, second vice president of the Haverhill Education Association, however, told WHAV GIC voted two weeks ago to change deductibles and co-pays and lock Haverhill out of two insurance options.
“They approved these changes without public comment, and then they also made the decision to freeze two of the plans that had been opened just last year to any new member,” Parolisi explains.
The decision contradicted statements the union made to its members.
“We reassured our members that the big benefit in the GIC was choice—that they’d be fine whether they took the Tufts Navigator or not because they would have a choice.”
Parolisi explains Haverhill and Hingham—both opting into state insurance next July—are being preventing from buying the better health plan.
“We already knew we were going to be losing the provider we had. When people expressed concerns about that, they were always pointed to the Tufts Navigator as the closest GIC analog.”
Besides Tufts Navigator, commissioners took away Fallon Select Health Care as an option. Parolisi says the mayor is on their side.
“He is hoping—like we are—that the GIC will reverse its decision to freeze us out of these plans even if just for our first years as members.”
During Wednesday’s commission meeting, Fiorentini convinced Executive Director Roberta Herman to let him briefly appeal for reconsideration. All others were told to file complaints by noon today. He says the members of the Massachusetts Teachers Association and Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts are questioning whether GIC followed state open meeting laws when they made decisions at a meeting, billed as an “information session.”
Parolisi said the membership of GIC is stacked against unions. He explains of the 17 board members, only three of four represent labor.
“Right now, it heavily favors industry and municipal government. It does not favor labor.”
The city is predicted to save $3 million by moving to state plans instead of staying with medical coverage sold by the non-profit Massachusetts Interlocal Insurance Association.