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The BEA: Looking Out for your Health (Insurance)

posted Oct 3, 2017, 7:15 AM by BEA President
Dear Colleagues,

When I attended my first Health Insurance Advisory Council meeting as a President-elect, meetings between the Town and Labor consisted of a report given by the Town Manager and Treasurer, sitting at the Selectmen's table, while the labor leaders sat in the audience.

As a new President, I attended MTA training and knew we needed to make a change.  At the next meeting, I took a seat at the Selectmen's table and invited all of the other labor leaders to join me. Since then, Labor has truly had "a seat at the table."

Now, even though state legislation has given more power to local governments, Burlington's unions are full partners in discussions regarding how we can reduce costs, provide rate stability, and ensure that we have a healthy health insurance trust to see us through high-claim years.

Your claims may be processed by Blue Cross or Harvard Pilgrim, and they do negotiate the rate your doctor charges the plan, but we do not buy insurance from them.  As a self-insured municipality rather than fully insured, we truly support each other, taking on the risk of high claims that would otherwise be absorbed by an insurance company.  What we incur in claims, we pay in premiums.  Of course, when we have low-claim years, we are not handing the excess to an insurance company.

This makes it essential that we have unions, like the BEA, fully involved, keeping an eye on cash flows and the trust, and looking at ways we can reduce costs.  

Over the past few years, we have:
  • contracted with a reputable benefits strategy consultant;
  • increased use of mail order options for reduced-cost prescriptions;
  • partnered with a diabetes management program;
  • promoted wellness programs;
  • educated members on when to use an urgent care rather than the emergency room
Most importantly, we have brought the health insurance trust balance into alignment with industry norms, while keeping rate increases well below the industry average.

I will be at the Health Insurance Advisory meeting again this week as we look at options for providing the greatest benefit possible to BEA members.  As always, it is an honor to serve the membership.

In Solidarity,
Diana Marcus
BEA President                                                                                #unionstrong