In our fractious state, I’m not used to hearing such a harmonious chorus. Especially on anything to do with health care. But newspapers from Newburyport to Worcester to Boston this week are editorializing in favor of House Speaker Robert DeLeo’s proposal to give local officials more power to cut health insurance costs by letting them bypass union approval.
Putting myself in Speaker DeLeo’s shoes, I’d be feeling buoyed by the support — who doesn’t like being praised as courageous and visionary? — and huge pressure to get the plan through the legislature despite powerful union opposition. A sampling of the editorial voices:
Boston Globe masthead editorial (under the headline, “DeLeo’s plan to save on cities’ health costs has courage, vision:):
EMBRACING COMMON sense in state government shouldn’t require unusual political courage. But as cities and towns across Massachusetts creak under the weight of their employees’ health care costs, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and House Ways and Means Chairman Brian Dempsey have incurred the wrath of powerful unions by proposing a straightforward way to help local governments bring those costs under control. Under their House budget plan, municipal officials would have the power to alter the terms of health insurance coverage without having to negotiate each provision with unions.
The long-overdue change goes well beyond a fuzzier plan by Governor Patrick that calls for further negotiations between towns and local unions, and it’s far superior to a union-backed plan that raises the prospect of binding arbitration.
The Worcester Telegram-Gazette:
It’s too soon to tell whether Massachusetts is in fact taking a page from Wisconsin’s book, but it has become clear that if cities and towns wait any longer for union agreement, it will be too late. The reforms and savings are needed now, and whether municipal workers wind up with the GIC or something similar to it, they will still have excellent health care benefits.
In Worcester, granting the city these powers would mean that all employees — police, fire, DPW, schoolteachers, school administrators, and City Hall workers, would be paying 25 percent toward their health care costs. That will save jobs and preserve city services.
We applaud Mr. DeLeo for including the plan design provision, and urge the Legislature to support it
The Newburyport News: Continue reading