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Broken Promise: Mayor’s Plan to Shift 250,000 Retired City Workers to Privatized Health Insurance Heads to City Council

(INDYPENDENT) STEVEN WISHNIA, October 12, 2022

Read also: What’s Wrong with Medicare Advantage? and Why Bernie’s Medicare Expansion Plan Got Snuffed Out

In March, New York State Supreme Court Judge Lyle Frank stopped Mayor Eric Adams’ administration’s attempt to switch the roughly 250,000 retired city workers to a private Medicare Advantage plan, saying it violated city law — so the administration is now trying to change that law. 

Section 12-126 of the City Administrative Code states that the city “will pay the entire cost of health insurance coverage for city employees, city retirees, and their dependents” up to the cost of the standard “benchmark plan.” In collaboration with most of the main city workers’ unions, the administration wants to add an alternative: It and the Municipal Labor Committee (MLC), the group of 102 city employees’ unions that negotiates benefits, could jointly agree on a new benchmark plan for “any class of individuals eligible for coverage.”

That “would enable the city to make Medicare Advantage the only premium-free retiree plan,” says Stuart Eber, president of Council of Municipal Retiree Organizations of New York City. It could also charge retirees who want to keep traditional Medicare roughly $200 a month per person, as in the plan Judge Frank’s ruling rejected.

If the change is enacted, Eber adds, that would “seriously undermine the health-care protections for all city workers. It will allow the city to renegotiate the rate for everyone and place employees into different ‘classes’ with reduced benefits, eliminating the protections and equal treatment regarding health benefits that current and retired employees have now.”

The City argued that the Medicare Advantage plan the court stopped would have provided the same benefits while expanding many other services. 

The retiree groups opposing it, however, say the private plans typically have higher copayments and require referrals and pre-approvals for many procedures, and there is no guarantee that doctors, hospitals and other providers will accept them, particularly out of state. They want to stay with Senior Care, a Medicare Part B supplemental insurance plan that covers the 20% of costs Medicare doesn’t. 

Source: Indypendent