Beverly’s employee unions are decrying a recent health insurance agreement that is projected to save the city $1.2 million.
The Health Insurance Reform Act, which Gov. Deval Patrick signed on July 12 last year in an effort to curb health insurance costs, gave Mayor William F. Scanlon, Jr. the power to negotiate a health plan for current and retired city workers.
“This was a law that was changed, we really didn’t have a lot of negotiating power,” the Beverly Teachers Association president,Heather Litchfield, said during a telephone interview today. “The only thing that we had to power to negotiate was the money savings. We have lot of veterans, they said to the mayor ‘We taken a zero increase in salary because of our benefits [have cost less] and now all of a sudden you’re increasing our benefits.’
“And the retirees are really going to take a hit. They are on fixed incomes. They probably use it more than other people because of their age and they are going to have increases as well. Everyone is having a difficult time with the economy, but this is a hard hit for us.”
The city spends 17 percent of its budget, or $17 million, on health care costs.
Scanlon, who lobbied for the law’s passage and touts it as one of his major accomplishments, couldn’t be reached for comment today.
The city will continue to pay 80 percent of premiums, but employees will have to pay deductibles and copays from $25 to $45 for a trip to the doctor that they don’t under the current health plan.
Litchfield said the savings on the premiums will begin on April 1 but that the premiums will go up on July 1.
“Yes our premiums will go down, but that’s only till July and in July there is usually an increase of six percent,” Litchfield said. “We will have savings for a short time and then it will go back up July 1.”
She said she’s worried the most about Department of Public Works employees and paraprofessionals in the schools don’t make a lot of money. She said one paraprofessional she knows makes $424 every two weeks.
“Now she’s going to have her health care to pay for, we have a $250 deductible to pay per person and all copays are being significantly increased,” Litchfield said. “All the money they are saving is because the employees are paying it. It’s like we are taking a pay cut.”
Justin A. Rice can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.