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Great Coverage, Busted Budgets

There's a nice series in The Boston Globe this week on the cost of health care coverage, particularly Sunday's piece on the financial hit that municipalities are taking due to their generous health plans.

Yesterday's story, by reporter Sean Murphy, says the fabulous coverage that many municipal workers get is wreaking havoc with local budgets:

A six-month review by the Globe found that municipal health plans, which cover employees, retirees, and elected officials, provide benefit levels largely unheard of in the private sector. Copays are much lower. Some communities do not force retirees onto Medicare at age 65. Many citizens on elected boards - some after serving as few as six years - receive coverage for life, too.

As medical costs across the board rose over the past decade, municipal health care expenses exploded, draining local budgets and forcing major cuts in services, higher property tax bills, and billions in new debt.

“It has got to be dealt with,’’ said Richard Fortucci , the chief financial officer in Lynn. “Or we will all go bankrupt.’’

The cost of municipal health care more than doubled from fiscal 2001 to 2008, adding more than $1 billion in all to city and town budgets, according to state Department of Revenue data. A Globe survey of 25 communities found that they now devote, on average, 14 percent of their budgets to health care, up from 8 percent a decade ago. Somerville, for one, spends $20 million more annually than it did 10 years ago, now devoting almost 20 percent of its budget to health care.

This program aired on March 1, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

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