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Mass. Unions Offer Health Care Overhaul Proposal

Unions representing state and municipal workers are offering their own proposal to cut the cost of health care spending by cities and towns.

The coalition, including the Massachusetts Teachers Association and Massachusetts AFL-CIO, said the plan would save an estimated $120 million in the first year. The plan calls for half of the savings to go back to workers.

In return, they said they want to preserve collective bargaining rights. The proposal includes some of the elements of a bill filed by Gov. Deval Patrick.

MTA Executive Director Ann Clarke says other proposals would cut unions completely out of deciding on how to cut costs.

"If the municipalities are sincere, the idea that they would not come to the table to discuss solutions with the unions would be most unfortunate," Clarke said.

The Massachusetts Municipal Association, which represents cities and towns, is pushing a tougher measure that would strengthen the hands of municipal officials over health costs.

Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation President Michael Widmer says he doesn't think the union plan would save the estimated $120 million.

"Really there is no guarantee or even likelihood that we would see significant savings in municipal health care costs through this proposal," he said.

The unions unveiled their plan at State House news conference on Monday, a day before a public hearing on Patrick's bill.

With reporting from the WBUR Newsroom and The Associated Press.

This program aired on March 7, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.

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