Town eyes co-pays to ease budget deficit
Westborough – Last year Jim Malloy, as a candidate for town manager, had to sell a search committee and town residents on the belief that he was the man to lead the community through the upcoming unimaginable economic waters that lie ahead.
Last month Malloy began selling town employees on the need for fiscal responsibility as it relates to budget cuts and making ends meet.
Malloy recently presented to the Westbor- ough Board of Selectmen a Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 budget totaling $88.2 million, a 2.2 percent increase – $1,914,151 – but includes 1.8 percent cuts to the operating budgets of every town department.
At the time of the unveiling of the proposed budget, Malloy said if alternative ways were found to overcome the predicted budget shortfall, the 1.8 percent cuts would be returned to their respective departments.
Malloy’s proposed solution to Westborough’s budget woes is to increase health care co-payments by plan members who are municipal employees. Depending on how understanding local unions are to the town’s plight, Malloy estimates that between $700,000 to$1.5 million can be shaved off the town’s annual health insurance budget.
Malloy has set a Friday,March 5 deadline to get a deal done with the town’s 11 unions. If he is not able to reach an agreement with enough unions by then, he will go ahead with his across-theboard cuts of 1.8 percent.
Westborough’s health insurance budget for town employees is about $9.5 million for the current fiscal year – about 11 percent — and Malloy points to co-payments for health benefits by town employees that are either below the market rate or not required at all as a big reason for the town’s health insurance budget being so high.
The proposal Malloy has discussed with the town’s various unions includes an increase in co-payments for offic e visit s from $5 to $10 for FY 2011, and an increase to $15 in FY 2012 and $20 in FY 2013. During the same time frame emergency room visits would go from $25 to $75 and the cost to have a prescription filled would be raised about $15 per prescription.
Malloy’s plan is also proposing co-payments for services that presently don’t have co-payments. Inpatient and outpatient services would be between $100 and$150.
“It’s an area a lot of towns are targeting,” Malloy said. “There are basically two groups of towns in the state right now – towns that have made changes to their healthcare costs by negotiating with their unions, and towns that are in the process of doing so.”
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