AIM thanks the Massachusetts House of Representatives, who amended and passed a bill (H.4712) Wednesday evening on a 138-17 vote to reform the state's Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) system to the benefit of both job applicants and employers.
The House CORI measure reduces the sealing time for felonies from 15 years to 10, and for misdemeanors from 10 years to five and preserves the current availability of records to the public and to law enforcement. It includes much-needed improvements in the operation of the CORI system to broaden access and improve accuracy and response times.
Significant for employers are provisions to protect them from liability when in compliance with the law and allowing for the continued use of aggregators (third-party CORI users). A "ban the box" provision preventing employers from asking about criminal records as part of the initial job application exempts employers who are statutorily prohibited from hiring ex-offenders, and allows inquiries later in the process for others.
"The legislation recently approved by the Senate (S.2220) and now the House achieves the goals of CORI reform - a more accurate and efficient system that enhances employment opportunities while maintaining appropriate protections for public and workplace safety," said John Regan, AIM's Executive Vice President for Government Affairs. "We commend the House for attending to and successfully balancing the very real concerns of all stakeholders, including the employer community. AIM will continue to work with legislators in the House and Senate as the two proposals move towards a conference committee between the two chambers.
In particular, we thank Speaker Robert DeLeo, Representative Charles Murphy, Chairman of the House Ways & Means, Representative Eugene O'Flaherty, House Chairman of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary and Minority Leader Bradley Jones for their contributions to reaching a satisfactory resolution to what has been a complex and contentious issue."
Yesterday, John Regan, AIM's Executive Vice President of Government Affairs hosted IssueConnect a monthly live webinar which updates members on economic trends in Massachusetts and provides an opportunity to engage on all the public policy issues that affect your bottom line - taxes, health care costs, and proposals to mandate seven sick days and other benefits. Should you have any questions or feedback, please contact John Regan, AIM’s Executive Vice President of Government Affairs firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-262-1180.
Register here for the next IssueConnect webinar scheduled for Tuesday, May 25, 2010. Join us to address the pressing issues of the employer community.
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Here are a few of the answers to questions posed by members during April's IssueConnect:
Does AIM support state legislation to allow municipal government to join the state healthcare plan known as the Group Insurance Commission (GIC) to relieve municipal budgets and reduce pressure on state aid?
AIM supports granting Massachusetts municipalities the ability to alter health care plan design, without having to bargain those changes with municipal unions. Municipal health insurance costs have increased at double-digit rates annually since 2000 – more than five times the rate of inflation – growing from just 6 percent of municipal budgets in 2001 to a projected 20 percent by 2020, according to a Mass. Taxpayers Foundation analysis.
Two straightforward changes would provide large and immediate savings in health costs, dwarfing the savings from all other municipal relief proposals:
- Give local officials the power to design their health insurance plans outside of collective bargaining.
- Require by statute that all eligible local retirees enroll in Medicare as their primary source of health insurance coverage.
In both cases, these changes would merely provide municipal leaders with the same tools as the state to manage health insurance costs and bring the extraordinarily generous benefits of municipal employees – the last bastion of the $5 co-pay – in line with state employees.
Allowing municipalities to change their health benefits outside of collective bargaining – as has long been done by the state’s Group Insurance Commission (GIC) – would save cities and towns roughly $100 million in the first year alone and as much as $2 billion annually by 2020.
What do you see as potential growth areas for jobs?
The largest growth in the next few years is likely to be in some of the more cyclical industries. We’ll see gains in business/technical/professional services, especially at the higher end (most of the gains so far have been temp employment), and leisure/recreation (e.g., restaurants). These should pick up as the economy begins to expand in earnest.
Among the industries specifically hit, some parts of construction (not office buildings), and also manufacturing, are likely to regain lost jobs. There’s unlikely to be much growth in government jobs, and there could be further significant losses.
Health services will continue to be strong, education probably less so.
How does the national and state healthcare reform efforts impact job creation?
Healthcare costs are one of the top issues continually raised by employers and business leaders trying survive and grow their companies. AIM’s board of directors decided that participating in reform and cost containment efforts provides employers the best opportunity to help solve the long-term health cost problem – which currently strains employer’s ability to create jobs. AIM believes that sustainable job creation in the Commonwealth requires significant commitment by public policy decision makers and all stakeholders to address to cost of healthcare.
In early April, Rick Lord AIM’s President and CEO spoke with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and her staff at length about the decision by Massachusetts businesses in 2006 to work with government, health-care providers, insurers and consumer groups to develop a framework of shared responsibility to expand health insurance coverage. Recently, Sandy Reynolds, AIM’s Executive Vice President commented about the impacts of the federal law on Massachusetts.
AIM offered comments on the ongoing state healthcare cost containment proposals to tackle health-care costs for small businesses; we made clear that any solution must involve both insurers and providers. AIM believes that the time is now for offering some relief and we cannot let the fact that the solutions are hard to implement or disruptive of the status quo be an excuse for not forging ahead to resolve the health care cost conundrum. AIM recently commented on an initial public policy plan outlined by the Senate President and we are committed to work with the Administration and the members of the General Court as healthcare cost containment measure move through the legislative process.
Our opportunity to address the high cost of healthcare in the Commonwealth has arrived. We invite you to join us in that effort.
Has AIM taken a position on the Sales Tax Ballot question?
Not at this time.
AIM is closely monitoring the Division of Health Care Finance and Policy hearings taking place this week at UMass (March 16, 18 & 19). AIM member company, John Hancock, testified yesterday as part of an employer panel.
John Hancock is co-founder of AIM's Health Care Employer Advisory Group (EAG). The EAG advises AIM leadership on important health care matters by reviewing health care legislation, studies, etc.; acting as a stakeholder group for public/private initiatives or organizations seeking the employer perspective and; providing public testimony, position statements, etc.
John Hancock's testimony, given yesterday, March 16, 2010 follows...
My name is Peter Mongeau. I am Vice President of Human Resources for John Hancock Financial Services, responsible for our employee compensation and benefits programs.
John Hancock is a financial services company with approximately 5,500 employees nationally, of which roughly 4,000 are in Massachusetts. Our projected 2010 medical plan spend for our current employees, including employee cost-sharing, is approximately $47 million dollars, of which more than 70%, or roughly $33 million, is spent in Massachusetts. We manage another $50 million dollars for retiree medical benefits.
Our medical plan increases, on a weighted-average basis, have been in the roughly 6 percent range for the last two years. On a relative basis, this is better than the 7.5 percent annual health insurance cost increase noted in the Division reports. However, it is still significantly greater than the 3.8 percent annual increase in GDP also reported by the Division. And, this rate of increase is greater than most of our other operating expenses, making it not acceptable in the long-term to our policyholders and shareholders.
We attribute our better than average medical spend increases to two overarching strategies, and we contend that these strategies are critical to reducing our health care costs while not compromising quality of care or access to care.
- One: Collaboration and partnership with our health plans to a) invest in and b) improve workforce health and productivity
- Two: Treatment and engagement of our employees as consumers, where choice and buyer information (or transparency) is important given the diversity of our workforce and the varying life situations, values and preferences of employees
I'd like to share with you an example of each strategy - one that has proven successful for John Hancock, and one that we are confident will help to reduce costs in the future.