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North Adams Unions Call for Insurance Audit

07-03-2009

To the Editor:

We hope we are wrong. But our analysis, based on documents provided by the city [of North Adams], shows that during 2005-2008 the city underfunded the Medical Insurance Trust Fund by failing to pay nearly $1.8 million into that fund for health insurance costs that would have ensured they pay their share of the premium costs.

Because of that, our analysis also shows that during those same years, the city overcharged retirees and employees over half a million dollars. This is a violation of our contracts and therefore a violation of labor law. Grievances have been filed and charges have been filed with the Mass. Division of Labor Relations. We believe the Medical Insurance Trust Fund should be subject to an independent audit.

In response to our concerns about the inappropriate management of the trust fund, it seems like the city has turned its back on transparency and therefore, accountability. For instance, weeks ago, the city met with employees and retirees on the Insurance Advisory Committee, which is a legally mandated committee designated to discuss the health insurance plans. Before the meeting, the public employees asked the city to substantiate the health of the trust fund. Instead of accounting for how it has managed the trust fund, the city announced additional hikes in insurance costs. The city provided us NO documentation about the health of the trust fund.

Bottom line – our analysis shows that city employees have been shouldering more than their 30 percent share of health insurance costs for at least the four years in question. Our analysis shows that this has cost employees and retirees, many of whom reside in North Adams, over $600,000. What about the last 20 years?

Last year, the mayor refused to join a state health insurance plan that could have saved an estimated $1.5 million for city employees and citizens. Why did he attack us for even asking for discussion? Were we asking too many questions? We had to; our health insurance costs have been among the highest in the state. And now, it seems, we have been paying more than our share.

This year, the mayor finally agreed to sit down with all of the unions to bargain over health insurance. Why now? The trust has been broken. We believe the city can no longer afford to be self-insured and that the mayor realizes he can no longer use employees to subsidize the Medical Insurance Trust Fund by overcharging us. We request that the city conduct a full and independent audit of the health insurance trust fund. It's time for transparency.

Susan Chilson, president,North Adams Teachers Association
Brian Kelly, president, North Adams Police Association, Local 382
Pete Robare, president, North Adams Firefighters Association, Local 1781



07-03-2009


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