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Insurance plan draws criticism

Clark to take proposal before unions, retirees

October 19, 2009
SOUTHBRIDGE — After unexpected opposition from the podium seeking to delay it, the Town Council approved giving Town Manager Chris Clark authority to take his proposal to change health insurance coverage to the unions and retirees.

Citing state law Chapter 32B, both George Chenier and Derek Lamica argued that the town's Insurance Advisory Committee had not had sufficient time to look at the plan nor to bring in to the retirees and unions. They said the IAC saw it for the first time Monday afternoon and believed voting on it now would violate that law.

"This is another step of municipal employees losing benefits," Lamica claimed, noting the town pays the lowest percentage allowed by law (50/50). He threatened to "file a temporary restraining order" and said he'd rather pay the extra premium than come up with the proposed larger copay for hospital use.

Chenier, representing the retirees, didn't phrase it quite so directly, but said the proposal could be subject to a union lawsuit because Clark didn't refer it to the IAC first. He alleged it was "not fair" for the committee to get the plan "at the 11th hour and have it voted on at the 12th hour."

Although Clark agreed he could have timed it better, he said he saw this vote as being "management's right" to take the first step in a process of changing the policy, not the last. With the vote in hand, he said, he can now send formal notices to the town's unions and retirees, starting a 60-day educational process.

See Wednesday's Southbridge Evening News for complete coverage of community news.

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