Applied economics professor David M. Cutler ’87 will serve as the third-party fact finder in healthcare deliberations between the University and the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers, the two parties announced in a joint statement on Tuesday.
Cutler—a health care policy economist who helped craft the Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration’s 2010 landmark healthcare law—will serve as fact finder during negotiations between the two sides regarding the implementation of a safety net for Medex, a retiree healthcare plan meant to serve as a supplement to Medicare.
HUCTW supports a safety net as a means of protecting economically vulnerable retirees, while the University has declined to publicly comment on the negotiations.
Cutler is tasked with making a non-binding recommendation about possible implementation of the proposed safety net at the conclusion of the fact-finding process.
While the union—which represents more than 4,600 of Harvard’s non-faculty staff—ratified a new contract this past April, it failed to resolve disagreements with the University about health care and union eligibility. Instead, the new contract referred these issues to special negotiating groups that, if unable to agree by this past August, would be assisted by third parties.
After the self-imposed August deadline passed, the search began for a third-party fact finder for health care, the first of the issues up for debate. HUCTW Director Bill Jaeger said that Cutler was an obvious choice.
“We were hopeful about what would happen if we got our advice from someone who is a very respected economist and is also trusted deeply by the administration and the union,” Jaeger said in an interview Tuesday.
Robert B. McKersie, professor emeritus at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, will serve alongside Cutler as facilitator of the health care fact-finding process.
University spokesperson Tania M. deLuzuriaga declined to comment Wednesday on Cutler’s appointment to the fact-finding position.
In an emailed statement to The Crimson last month, she wrote of the negotiations, “It is a shared goal of the University and HUCTW that these discussions yield agreements that benefit members of the HUCTW and the campus as a whole.”
McKersie, who also served as one of the mediators in HUCTW’s contract negotiations earlier this year, if the fact-finding process is successful, it could provide a framework for future negotiations..
—Staff writer Christine Y. Cahill can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @cycahill16.