BURLINGTON – Town officials recently presented the Select Board with a rundown of the proposed 2022 health insurance rates for current and retired town employees, which saw the members approve customer-friendly rates.
As was the case last year, Town Treasurer/Tax Collector Gay Gianino first declared “good news” to the Select Board, affirming that town officials and the unions have been working together diligently throughout this year to make sure all parties are satisfied with the health insurance rates and plans. There are over 1,000 active employees on town insurance plan.
The average increase in the last six years is just over 3 percent, and the town’s current budget for health insurance is roughly $13 million (10 percent of the town’s Operating Budget that was approved at Town Meeting last May). The trust fund at this time is a tad over $7 million.
Gianino expounded on the health care premiums for active and retired employees.
The proposed rate increases for the two health insurance plans for active town employees is 0 percent. These plans entail Blue Care Elect PPO, Blue Cross HMO Blue, Harvard Pilgrim Best Buy, and Harvard Pilgrim HSA Plan. These plans are for town employees under the age of 65 (individuals who are not eligible for Medicare).
“That is good news for us and good news for employees,” remarked Gianino.
Health insurance rates in communities throughout the country are anticipated to increase by at least 10 percent in 2022, so Burlington is certainly in the most ideal situation at 0 percent.
“Compared to other communities, [Burlington] works very well with our employees to address the contract situation and to attempt to address how they need healthcare, so it is not affecting rates as a whole. The 0 percent increase was recommended and appropriate for 2022,” commented Gianino.
The deductible formula for the independent plans is a $1,000 deductible, wherein the town pays the first $500. For family plans, it is $2,000 deductible and the town pays the first $1,000.
Plans for retirees
Retired employees (seniors over 65) have five different plans to choose from, known as Medicare supplemental plans.
The health insurance plans for seniors are community rate increases, as the town is not self-funded in the retiree programs. The town is self-funded when it comes to active employees in the plan. The plans are Tufts Preferred HMO (up 4.4 percent), and Tufts Preferred Supplement (up 3 percent).
“The rates are set by the health insurance companies and we have to pass them on to our retirees and the Medicare plans for those over 65,” reminded Gianino. “But it is just the result of what the federal government is doing with funding. The rates are set regionally by claims experiences in the last 12 months.”
A positive trend looks to continue as a decrease in employee claims happened again, which is a result of the Select Board voting for a high-deductible plan seven years ago. A primary objective is to try to reduce drug claims.
The town has also been vigilant in promoting wellness education for employees, including no smoking and diabetes education programs to help guide employees in the right direction in terms of good health.
“We have been successful with these wellness education programs because claims have gone down in recent years,” explained Gianino. “Health insurance is usually a budget buster for communities. Thankfully, we have very amenable town employee representatives who work collaboratively with us. Everyone realizes we have an excellent plan, but they also realize it is very costly plan for the taxpayers, so everyone tries to make it as cheap as possible.”
The Select Board was pleased with rates for active employees.
“I want to thank all the parties involved for putting all the time in to get these rates,” Select Board member Joseph Morandi stated. “It does not happen overnight. This will continue to be great for the town.”
Select Board member Michael Runyan added, “0 percent is remarkable. This is good news and a great job all-around to you and your staff. We live in a great town.”
Gianino formally requested a vote from the board to authorize the health insurance rates for 2022, which will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2022. Any percentage increase will be deducted out of each paycheck one month in advance to pay for the premiums.
By a unanimous vote, the Select Board approved the proposed 2022 health insurance rates for active and retired town employees.