Towns Struggle With High Health Costs
In the final installment of a two-part series, The Boston Globe reports on municipal health costs and how financially strapped towns are seeking a change in state law so that they can have more flexibility in setting health costs. The Globe describes how Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll came up with an idea to get employees to pay more for their own health care and increase copayments from $5 to $15 amid a $1 million shortfall and multiple layoffs. "It is a familiar lament. Mayors, city and town leaders, and state officials, including Governor Deval Patrick, have launched repeated efforts to rein in the expense of providing health care to municipal workers, retirees, and elected officials." But they face push back from organized labor, which has resisted "local efforts to transfer more health care costs to workers and move communities onto the state's health care plan. State lawmakers have shown little appetite for forcing an overhaul of the system." In Massachusetts, the "state forbids cities and towns from shifting health care costs to employees without bargaining with unions." This law is the one "municipal officials say the Legislature must rewrite to address the crisis" (Murphy, 3/1).
The first part in The Boston Globe series describes how runaway health costs are pinching municipal budgets (Murphy, 2/28).
Meanwhile, The Arizona Republic reports on city employees' benefit packages in Scottsdale. "Scottsdale city employees pay far less for their health insurance than do employees of other Valley cities, but now budget cutters are looking to minimize the benefits deemed 'far and away better' than what other workers get. When the city's Budget Review Commission got a look last week at a proposal to shift more health-insurance costs to employees, some members seemed aghast at how favorably Scottsdale's benefits compare with those in other cities and especially with the private sector" (Larson, 3/1).