MIIA reaches a significant milestone this month, celebrating 40 years of service and coverage to Massachusetts cities, towns and municipal entities.

Formed by the MMA in 1982, when local governments were struggling under the weight of unprecedented financial turmoil resulting from Proposition 2½, the goal was to provide better services and coverage for less cost than the commercial sector could offer.

“What we did in 1982 wasn’t necessarily revolutionary, but it certainly was unique,” said MIIA Executive Vice President Stan Corcoran. “The MMA believed that if you provide the cities and towns with the tools, they will avail themselves of those tools and will improve their risk. That’s always been the case.”

Now serving more than 400 cities, towns and public entities, MIIA has brought stability to the municipal insurance marketplace while providing innovative products and services to help reduce overall insurance costs.

“The MMA had the foresight to help cities and towns with an alternative to the unstable insurance coverage and services that were the norm at the time,” said Corcoran.

MIIA first began providing workers compensation coverage in 1982, added property and liability insurance in 1984, and then added health insurance in 1992. As MIIA celebrates its 40th anniversary, the Health Benefits Trust also reaches a notable milestone with its 30th anniversary.

At this year’s MMA Annual Meeting, MIIA will recognize its longtime partners that help support MIIA’s mission of stability, value, service, innovation and trust. MIIA’s most valued partnerships are with Boston-based Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Aon Risk Services (previously Frank B. Hall); and Cabot Risk of Woburn (evolved from the former Hastings Tapley Insurance Agency).

Aon Risk Services has partnered with MIIA since the beginning, handling workers compensation workplace injury claims. For almost as long, Cabot Risk has partnered with MIIA in providing risk management, training and claims management with a similar commitment to MIIA’s goals and mission.

“The expertise and guidance of both companies have prevented much unnecessary hardship, in addition to saving Massachusetts communities hundreds of thousands of dollars every year in premiums and claims costs,” Corcoran said.

Health Benefits Trust
When the Health Benefits Trust was formed, the municipal health market was fractured, with many cities and towns having multiple health insurers. Contrary to the idea that more carriers are better for keeping costs down, cities and towns were paying more in health insurance as the number of carriers in each municipality increased. Moreover, healthier, younger employees often selected the less costly HMOs, while employees in greater need of health services selected the costlier indemnity-type plans.

“MIIA’s premise was to ‘reaggregate the risk pool’ with one carrier that offered multiple types of plans, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts was the company that fit that need,” Corcoran said. “The immediate result was greater cost savings and a more integrated and coherent strategy for providing cities and towns with high-quality health care.”

MIIA was the first in the municipal space to pilot and offer Select Network, a provider network that includes doctors, facilities and specialty hospitals recognized for providing lower-cost care. According to Andrew Dreyfus, CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, MIIA was also the first to offer Learn to Live, a new and innovative mental health solution that provides online support to people struggling with anxiety, stress, depression and other conditions.

“Blue Cross is committed to partnering with MIIA to deliver quality affordable health care, and over the years we have worked hard to find savings for the cities and towns we serve together,” Dreyfus said. “MIIA members enjoy a lower administrative rate and are able to purchase ‘stop loss’ insurance at a preferred rate. With its larger scale, MIIA can spread the cost of large claims across a larger pool, which in turn provides stability and savings.”

Dreyfus credits Corcoran for leading MIIA to partner with Blue Cross 30 years ago, and says his leadership today continues to be the key to shared success.

“We are also fortunate to have a team of people on both sides who have worked together for many years, who trust and respect one another, and are committed to our shared goal of providing quality affordable and equitable health care to each municipality we serve,” Dreyfus said.

All MIIA partnerships have stood the test of time while evolving their services and products to serve the growing needs of its members. All three insurance programs began at a time of crisis, but by joining together for a common purpose through a municipal-focused, mission-driven organization, the strength of the combined cities and towns overcame those adverse conditions.

That is a lesson for today and the future as local governments continue to face new challenges.

Written by Kathy Geller Myers, freelance writer