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Group insurance softens the blow; 2012 rate increase lowest in 3 years.

Byline: John J. Monahan

BOSTON - After years of much higher insurance premium increases, state officials are finding a softer landing this year, with rates for state employees and municipal workers covered by the Group Insurance Commission coming in with a 2.4 percent increase next year.

Dolores Mitchell, executive director of the GIC, announced yesterday that the commission has set the the lowest increase in three years for 2012.

She attributed the favorable rate increase to a two-pronged cost control approach to reduce increases charged by insurers and incentives that encouraged employees to move to lower cost insurance plans.

The rates also reflect rate increases for medical services and what officials called "vigorous rate negotiations."

She said it compares to a national average of 6.4 percent increases in insurance premiums in 2011.

The rate news comes as many communities are considering adoption of the GIC for more municipal workers. The Legislature is reviewing bills that would force cities and towns to put their employees on to GIC health plans if they cannot negotiate less costly insurance coverage on their own.

"There are a lot of moving parts in our predictions for the next year, but we have put all the pieces in place, and we are very pleased to present these rates," Ms. Mitchell said.

Administration and Finance Secretary Jay Gonzalez said obtaining the lower rates is due in large part to steps the GIC is taking to contain costs through negotiation of lower rates.

This year all state employees are being required to re-enroll in their health insurance plans in the hope that many will opt into new limited provider networks officials hope will save the state millions. Employees who take a limited network option will be granted a three-month holiday from paying premiums, as well as savings from plans that will average about 20 percent less than broad network insurance plans.

The limited network plans are being offered by Fallon Community Health Plan Direct, Harvard Pilgrim Primary Choice, Health New England, NHP Neighborhood Health Plan, Tufts Spirit Plan and UniCare's Community Choice plan.
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Mar 5, 2011
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