SHIRLEY -- Health benefits representative Jill Gallant-Shaw, of MIIA, the insurance group the town belongs to, made a presentation to the selectmen Monday night.

The aim was not to make recommendations or offer advice, she said, but only to give them an overview of the Massachusetts Municipal Health Insurance Reform Act of 2011, or Chapter 32B, focusing on the three sections that changed the law, Sections 21, 22 and 23.

Basically, it's a "roadmap" of what you need to know and understand" about the new regulations, she said. Over the next hour or so, she talked about "what Shirley needs to know now," whether the selectmen consider changes to the town's employee health insurance plan or not.

Acting Chairman David Swain said the idea was to listen to the options for cost-saving changes to the plan, although the town had no such intent at present.

Selectman Kendra Dumont asked to see cost comparisons.

While not the most lucrative around, the town has a "very rich" employee insurance plan, Gallant-Shaw said. So much so that plans like that -- with no deductible, low co-payments and comprehensive coverage -- are not even sold any more.

The town has reduced its share of premium costs, however, Treasurer Kevin Johnston pointed out, bargaining with its unions for a 75/25 percentage split a few years ago, with the town still picking up the heavier end, but still paying less than previously, when the split was 90/10.


Despite the concession, insurance hasn't been a sticking point in union negotiations, he said, which is one reason he's in no hurry to see the board make changes, which under the new law municipalities can do without collective bargaining. "If it isn't broken, why fix it?" he asked.

Not that changes won't come, Johnston said. But it's a long and exacting process with a rigid timeline, as the MIIA representative spelled out, and there simply isn't time. Besides, the Insurance Advisory Committee has yet to make its annual recommendation to the board. The state-mandated IAC consists of one representative of each union and one retiree. The group has a meeting scheduled next week, he said.

In other business, the selectmen quickly read through the 19-item annual Town Meeting warrant. Still in draft form, the warrant is closed, but there's one more item pending, administrative assistant Kathi Rocco said. Town counsel is reviewing it now.