EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 11, 2012

Salem joins 12 other towns in complaint

By John Toole
jtoole@eagletribune.com

---- — SALEM – The town is joining a dozen other New Hampshire communities in trying to get a share of $52 million in refunds from an agency that oversees health insurance pools for public employees.

Selectmen voted unanimously Monday night to join in a complaint to the state Bureau of Securities Regulation.

“We’re not just looking at a couple of hundred bucks for the town of Salem,” Selectmen’s Chairman Patrick Hargreaves said. “This is somewhere around $250,000.”

The bureau, in an order issued last summer, directed the Local Government Center to refund surplus funds, concluding they were improperly collected from participating municipalities and school districts.

The center is appealing that ruling to the state Supreme Court, but announced this fall it would deal with the surplus problem by giving credits against future payments.

Earlier this week, after the communities lodged their complaint with the bureau, the center announced municipalities and school districts could instead request a cash payment.

Upsetting to officials in Salem and the other dozen communities that are parties to the complaint is the center’s position that refunds would be limited to those enrolled when the surplus would be refunded.

That position would exclude Salem and the other towns that are parties to the complaint and contributed surplus funds. Though they contributed in the past, they no longer participate.

Spokesmen for the communities said the center’s refund plan “does nothing for those members who have left the LGC program, but whose contributions helped build the surplus over the time span that it was allowed to unlawfully accumulate.”

The communities maintain the proposal discriminates against the former participants, and is “improper and contrary to law.”

Salem is the only community in Southern New Hampshire thus far participating in the complaint.

The center’s group insurance pools are intended to help reduce costs for municipalities and school districts in providing coverage to employees and retirees through providers such as Northeast Delta Dental and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield.