Selectmen want more info on disability article

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By Keith Regan, Contributing Writer

Westborough – Selectmen asked for more information on the impact of a proposed town meeting article that would have Westborough adopt state rules specifying that the town is responsible for the medical bills of firefighters and police officers who retire due to a job-related disability.

Fire Chief Walter Perron made the case for adopting the measure – known as Mass. General Laws Chapter 41 section 100B – at the Board of Selectmen’s meeting Jan. 28. The meeting had been delayed a day because of the blizzard.

The three board members present said they needed more information on the effects of the move before deciding whether to place it on the warrant for the March Town Meeting and whether to support its passage.

Perron said the town discovered within the past month that it has never adopted the provisions of 100B as the town sought to resolve a disability case involving a firefighter. He said at least 40 communities have adopted the statute, which also calls for the creation of a local Medical Review Board that includes a doctor to review the reasonableness of expenses charged to the town.

“This just bubbled up within the past month,” said Selectmen Chair George Barrette.

Town Manager Jim Malloy said the move could come with a significant cost. If the town adopts the provision, the town itself – not its insurer – would then be the first responsible party for all healthcare costs relating to the reason for the disability retirement through the worker’s lifetime. Health insurance would still cover medical issues not related to the reason for the disability. The town pays for 75 percent of retirees’ health insurance costs, he added.

Only police and fire are affected, Malloy noted, with other town workers covered by workers’ compensation insurance. Malloy said he would provide the board with a side-by-side comparison that attempts to quantify the additional financial obligations the town would take on by adopting the measure.

“We need more details, more information,” said Selectmen Denny Drewry, noting that the numbers Perron cited suggest the majority of communities statewide have avoided adopting the regulations.