Health care amendments approved

As a result of lobbying by MTA members and staff and other unions, the health care bills that passed the House and Senate in the last week do not contain language that undercuts the collective bargaining rights of municipal employees.

The success of this effort was the result of a grassroots/union effort -- from members' calls, e-mails and postcards to the hard work of our staff and the public-sector union coalition.

Wednesday evening, the Senate passed its version of health care reform. The House and Senate bills are now on the way to a conference committee to be reconciled. Once that is complete and a final bill has been passed by both chambers, it will go to the governor for his signature.

On two issues with which MTA was concerned, the Senate unanimously adopted language to protect benefits and collective bargaining rights.

  • The Senate bill ensures that health insurance policies are required to include state-mandated coverage for certain medical conditions and that HMOs cannot offer lesser benefit plans than currently permitted by law.
  • The Senate bill removed ambiguity in wording in a provision requiring cities and towns to offer health insurance to all employees. If an employee does not choose to select coverage and uses the uncompensated care pool, those costs would be borne by the employee. The original language may have been interpreted to intrude on certain collective bargaining rights.

Special thanks goes to Sens. Jarrett Barrios (D-Cambridge), Marc Pacheco (D-Taunton) and Michael Morrissey (D-Quincy) for their work on the amendments.

"In addition, we want to thank MTA members for their efforts on this issue," said MTA President Catherine A. Boudreau. "We have made a difference.

"We will continue to keep a close watch on this legislation and keep members posted," she added.

In the House bill, MTA is seeking to clarify one provision that deals with indemnity plans.