My letter in today’s Lowell Sun: Legislature needs to step up on muni health ins

The letter below appears in today’s edition of the Lowell Sun:

Legislature needs to give municipalities authority to rein in health insurance costs

Your recent editorial on municipal health insurance costs (“Handcuffed by health costs,” March 1) hit the nail right on the head. Skyrocketing health insurance costs are strangling municipal budgets across the state. Cities and towns currently don’t have the authority to effectively rein in these costs — we need our elected representatives on Beacon Hill to grant us that authority.

Here in Chelmsford, more than 10 percent of our $100 million operating budget now goes to health insurance for town employees. At its current rate of increase, our health insurance spending will double in just a few years. The budgetary impact of this trend is obvious: ever more spending on insurance means ever less spending on essential services such as public safety, education and public works. We’ve made several attempts to arrive at an agreement with unions to bring these costs under control. These attempts have been unsuccessful. Many other communities across the state are facing the same frustrating impasse.

Fortunately, there is a straightforward, common-sense solution staring us all in the face: the Legislature should step up, put special-interest politics aside, and grant cities and towns the authority to make unilateral changes to municipal health insurance plans — the same authority that is exercised in the private sector and by the state itself. The taxpayers of Chelmsford and the other 350 communities of the commonwealth deserve it.

ERIC DAHLBERG

Chelmsford Selectman

Dahlberg is a candidate for the State Senate seat representing the 3rd Middlesex District.

Here is a link to my letter on the Sun’s site: Legislature needs to give municipalities authority to rein in health insurance costs.

http://www.lowellsun.com/ci_14…

Here is a link to this post on my own blog:

My letter in today’s Lowell Sun: Legislature needs to give municipalities authority to rein in health insurance costs

http://ericdahlberg.blogspot.c…

About Eric R Dahlberg

  • Eric

    I agree, either joining the GIC or supporting the passage of something akin to H2509 would help municipalities manage their health care costs.

    However, there is another component of municipal health care costs that also needs to be addressed.  This is the funding, or lack thereof, for retiree health care costs.

    Most municipalities provide health care to their retirees.  Good accounting practice would have the expense for these benefits recognized in the year in which the services were provided (in simple terms the cost for an employee this year is salary + pension + current health care + future health care). Shockingly, our municipalities have decided that they do not want to fund the cost of future health care expenses for today’s employees today.  Rather, they have decided to “pay as you go” effectively pushing these expenses into the future.  This approach is finally coming back to haunt us as many municipalities are reaching the point where there are more retirees than there are active employees.  Imagine how irate people would be if they realized that half or more of their municipality’s health care budget was going to pay for health care for people who are providing no service to the municipality that year.  If I remember correctly, I think Chelmsford is in just this position with more retirees than active employees and you can see the impact on your exploding health care costs.

    It is time to do with these benefits what we did with pensions back in the 80’s – mandate funding.  We have tried leaving it to the local policy makes and elected officials to our detriment.  There is always a better project to undertake (a new school looks so much better than funding a health insurance trust). We need people at the state house to push for fiscal sanity for our children and grandchildren otherwise they will face the crushing weight of our inability to plan for the future.