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Some Swampscott town employees frustrated with GIC

SWAMPSCOTT – Several town employees and former town employees are frustrated with the Group Insurance Commission the town joined 18 months ago.On Nov. 26, 2008 every union in town voted to join the GIC, which allows the town to buy discounted health insurance through the state for its employees, which saves the town approximately $500,000 a year. The GIC went into effect July 1, 2009.Retired police officer William Wollerscheid served on the Public Employee Committee, which recommended joining the GIC. He said the reaction has been mixed.?If you’re not sick you walk away golden,” Wollerscheid said. “If you’re sick, it’s going to cost you. I would say 80 percent of people covered are as happy as a clam at high tide with it. Retirees with long-term illness are at the biggest disadvantage.”John Hoffman, a 20-year veteran of the Police Department, suffered a debilitating stroke in 2003 and retired on disability.His companion, Karen McKay, who handles insurance related matters for Hoffman, said the GIC plan has been a nightmare.?John (Hoffman) is paralyzed on his left side,” she said. “It took us three months to get authorization for his motorized wheelchair through Fallon. I got into such battles with Fallon.”McKay added the deductibles and co-pays are higher with the GIC.?Some of our co-pays not for generics are $20. It used to be $5,” McKay said.Firefighter William Hyde Jr. said he wishes he could go back to the Blue Cross Blue Shield coverage to deal with his wife with Multiple Sclerosis.?It’s been the year from hell,” Hyde said. “With Blue Cross we never had a problem with her meds or treatment and never saw one bill from them. We had to fight for more than three weeks to get pre-authorization for her medications that she has been taking since 2003 when she was diagnosed.”The GIC offers several tiered plans through Fallon Community, Unicare, Harvard Pilgrim, Tufts and Neighborhood Health Plan, which is a HMO.Hyde added the GIC is costing his family more than his previous health insurance plan.?With Blue Cross I was paying almost $200 week,” Hyde said. “With the GIC I’m paying $125 a week, but the co-pays and deductibles are costing me a lot more.”Hyde added the family is forgoing necessary medical tests because the tests are not covered by the GIC coverage.?GIC charges us every time we need simple lab work,” Hyde said. “The medication I take for a tumor can cause heart valve problems so my physician gives me an EEG annually. Blue Cross covered it, but the GIC won’t.”Department of Public Works Director Gino Cresta said he is pleased with the GIC plan his family is on.?We haven’t had any issues with it, but fortunately we don’t need to use it much,” Cresta said. “It is saving us money.”Wollerscheid said the GIC is costing his family more than the policy it had through Blue Cross.?Blue Cross covered generic medicines completely, but now there’s a co-pay,” he said.Treasurer/Collector Denise Dembkoski said she believes the majority of town employees like the new coverage.?We’ve had a handful of complaints since we went to the GIC, but overall most people are happy with it,” Dembkoski said. “Our employees are paying significantly less than they were with Blue Cross Blue Shield even when deductibles are factored in. We have very few people canceling or leaving the plan.”Selectman Robert Mazow, who was on the board when the GIC was adopted, said he has no doubt the decision to move to the GIC was the right thing to do.?We spent a ton of time working on this and in negotiations,” Mazow said. “I have no doubt it was the right decision. Obviously there is not any one plan that will satisfy everyone, but I think this works for the majority of town employees and retirees. I’m an employer. I have health plans and unfortunately there is no cookie-cutter formula that fits everyone.”Selectman Jill Sullivan, who was on board when the GIC was passed, said she has not heard any complaints about the plan.

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