Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

News

June 5, 2014

Status quo for health insurance

Debate ends with no change, but eye to future

Town officials are looking to move on from a health insurance controversy that erupted during Town Meeting — and again last week — when voters learned that a plan rejected by the town’s unions would have saved $500,000 or more.

Board of Selectmen Chairman Dan Kowalski read a two-page statement at Monday night’s selectmen’s meeting, saying that while the board was “disappointed” in the unions’ decision, the town needs to look forward to the next year of negotiations.

“The board has instructed the town manager to start the ... process earlier for fiscal year 2016,” he said. “This will ensure the employee group, and the taxpayers, have greater visibility into the town’s efforts to control health insurance costs.”

Ryan Hinchcliffe, who leads the custodial union, said last week that the unions “look forward to putting this issue behind us and providing services of the highest quality to the town and the taxpayers.”

Other union representatives said they would be willing to study different health plans for next year, but that they hadn’t been given enough time or information to make an informed decision on the matter earlier this year.

Last Wednesday, May 28, at the request of selectmen, a group representing the town’s municipal employees unions called a Public Employee Committee, or PEC, meeting to discuss whether to reopen negotiations over health insurance.

According to Town Manager Reginald “Buzz” Stapczynski, the committee, made up of the leaders of the town’s 14 unions, “chose not to vote because there were too many unknowns about the financial penalty associated with terminating the current (health insurance) contract.”

The current contract was signed earlier this month with the Massachusetts Interlocal Insurance Association, a nonprofit organization that offers a variety of insurance products to cities and towns across the state. In Andover’s case, MIIA provides Blue Cross/Blue Shield insurance to the town’s 1,400 employees as well as retired town workers.

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