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Proposed MBTA Health Care Reform Could Save $1 Billion

The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation today releases an analysis it's calling a "blueprint" for health care reform at the MBTA. The group offers six recommendations for bringing T health care benefits in line with state employees, and claims the reforms could be implemented as soon as July 1st, for a long term savings for the T of $1 billion over the next 20 years.

The Foundation says in a statement:

"Achieving immediate savings is essential as the T faces a staggering $160 million budget deficit in fiscal 2010 in part because of extraordinarily generous pension and health care benefits that far exceed the norm in the public and private sectors."

How would they do it?

Make T employees pay the difference between HMO and premium PPO plans; require retirees to pay 15% of health care premiums (most currently receive premiums for free); introduce tiered network health care plans.

(There are several other recommendations. You can read them in full here.)

All this may be welcome financial fillip for MBTA managers. One billion dollars sounds good to an agency that currently carries an $8 billion debt. But, perhaps not so good to MBTA employees who carry fresh memories of the battles surrounding last year's binding arbritration agreement.

The Boston Carmen's Union, the largest and leading union at the T, is willing to do battle again. Stephan MacDougall, union president, told WBUR earlier this month, "I don't think you can solve the structural problems of finance around legacy debt by putting it on the backs of workers." MacDougall then added:

http://audio.wbur.org/storage/2009/03/thebottomline_0331_1.mp3

And in the parlance of transportation policy makers, legacy debt equals, you guessed it, debt the MBTA inherited with federally mandated expansion projects that came along with none other than the Big Dig.

This program aired on March 30, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.

Meghna Chakrabarti Twitter Host, On Point
Meghna Chakrabarti is the host of On Point.

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