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In a recent case, Twomey, et al v. Town of Middleborough, et al, 468 Mass. 260 (2014), it was argued as to who had the right to determine what portion of the premium was paid by retired employees-the Board of Selectmen or by vote via Town Meeting.  It was decided that pursuant to G.L. c. 32B, § 16, the Board of Selectmen is deemed as the appropriate public authority of the governmental unit that has the authority to determine the percentage of the total monthly premium that retired town employees are to pay for insurance coverage by an HMO and not Town Meeting.

The provisions of G.L. c. 32B, §16 do not directly state how that total is to be distributed but rather “upon acceptance of this section as hereinafter provided, the appropriate public authority of the governmental unit shall enter into a contract…to make available the services of a health care organization to certain eligible and retired employees and dependents…as it deems to be in the best interest of the governmental unit and such eligible persons as aforesaid”.  According to the Twomey case, “the thrust of the arguments is that G.L. c. 32B, § 16, does not confer authority on the board of selectmen to set the HMO premium contribution rate that is to be paid by the town’s retired employees. Rather, they contend that it is solely the province of the town meeting, which serves as the town’s legislative body, to act on matters of municipal finance.”  The matter was argued.  The judge disagreed and stated that under G.L. c. 32B, § 16, the Board of Selectmen had the authority.  “We recognize, and the parties acknowledge, that G.L. c. 32B, § 16, is silent with respect to exactly how the total monthly premium should be apportioned between a town and its retired employees. Nonetheless, given the broad authority conferred on the board of selectmen by the Legislature with respect to the implementation of § 16, and given the complete absence of any reference to the town meeting in that same statutory section, it is reasonable to conclude that it is the province of the board of selectmen to determine what portion of the total monthly premium for HMO coverage should be borne by the town’s retired employees. Had the Legislature intended to confer on the town meeting the authority to set HMO premium contribution rates for town retirees, it would have included language to that effect in § 16.”

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