New York, NY – Opponents of the city plan to move some 240,000 municipal retirees out of traditional Medicare healthcare coverage and into a privatized Medicare Advantage plan are expected to pack a City Council Committee on Civil Service and Labor hearing slated for Thursday, October 28 at 1 p.m.
City retirees and their allies opposed to the switch insist that the NYC Medicare Advantage Plus plan is the result of a highly controversial cost-cutting deal hatched some years ago, between Mayor Bill de Blasio and members of the Municipal Labor Committee [MLC] that will only make it more difficult for retirees to get the care that they need.
State Supreme Court Judge Lyle Frank, last week, gave opponents a glimmer of hope when he called the plan “arbitrary and capricious” and issued an order blocking the city from implementing an October 31, deadline for city retirees to opt out of the plan.
“It is not in dispute that currently, in the midst of a pandemic, that has been hardest on the elderly and infirm, retirees have been given a deadline of October 31 to either do nothing in which case their health care plan will change, or to stay in their current plan in which they will likely have to pay what can only be described as a penalty. At the same time, there is little clarity as to which health care providers will be accepting this new Medicare Advantage Plan. It is simply irrational for retirees to have to make this decision as circumstances currently stand,” Judge Frank wrote in his ruling.
Last month, New York City union retirees held a “die in” outside City Hall Park in an effort to further raise alarms about the impending move, in which Assembly Member Robert Carroll [D-44th District] called “utterly ridiculous.”
“It is utterly ridiculous that we’ve got union leaders and elected officials selling out New York City retirees to private insurance companies,” Carroll said. “Because if you believe you’re going to get retirees the same medical services for less money by creating a private insurance policy — I’ve got a bridge to sell you. It’s just not gonna happen. It makes absolutely no sense.”
In testimony to be submitted before the City Council Committee on Civil Service and Labor — Stuart Eber, president of the Council of Municipal Retiree Organizations [COMRO] and president emeritus of the NYC Managerial Employees Association [MEA], along with Edward Hysyk, COMRO second vice-Chair, and president of Retirees Association of DC37 and past president of Local 2627 — say the shift to the privatized the NYC Medicare Advantage Plus plan means more costs, confusion and uncertainty.
“Retirees have been thrown under the bus by many of our union leaders who have rightfully defended union members against charter schools and contracting out civil service jobs. But privatizing retirees’ Medicare was falsely presented as an improvement,” they write.
According to the advocates, retirees had “zero input” in the looming switch to the NYC Medicare Advantage Plus plan — a partnership between Emblem Health and Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield.
“Nowhere in this process did the MLC consult with the 240,000 retirees and their families to determine how it will help or harm us. The entire process was done behind closed doors in a hush-hush, rush-rush manner without consulting with the retiree organizations that represent these retirees,” Eber and Hysyk say.
On April 19, Eber petitioned the MLC for COMRO’s inclusion onto the organization’s steering committee. That request was subsequently rebuffed a few days later, when MLC attorney Harry Greenberg informed Eber that COMRO was “neither a certified employee organization nor a member of the MLC,” and therefore, “not eligible for representation on the MLC Steering Committee.”
COMRO argues that moving municipal retirees out of traditional Medicare doesn’t even make fiscal sense.
“The City and the MLC agreed in 2018 to save $3 billion in health care costs because these costs are driven by the profits of private health insurance companies, Big Pharma and the corporate health provider world. Their collective answer to stem the bleeding from for-profit private health care was to privatize Medicare to save $500 million,” Eber and Hysyk say.
Those who choose to opt out of the NYC Medicare Advantage Plus plan and remain in traditional Medicare can expect to shell out in the neighborhood of $195 a month, or about 10% of their combined pensions and Social Security, according to the retiree advocates.
“The lack of transparency in the rush to change this program is both insulting and frightening to those of us who have collectively worked millions of years serving the people of New York City. How can we trust our health to a backroom deal based on the dubious assumption that it will save the City $500,000,000 a year with no diminution of health benefits and services to 240,000 of us? When something is too good to be true, it is too good to be true,” Eber and Hysyk charge.
Thursday’s City Council Committee on Civil Service and Labor hearing will be live streamed here. Written testimony may be submitted up to 72 hours after the hearing takes place by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.