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Court Blocks Controversial Medicare Switch for Retired NYC Workers

(THE CITY) SAM MELLINS, December 4, 2021

A state Supreme Court judge Thursday indefinitely halted a proposed cost-cutting change in city government retirees’ health care after former municipal workers filed suit seeking to stop the move.

In a four-page order, Judge Lyle Frank called the rollout of the switch “irrational, and thus arbitrary and capricious” — and ordered the city to maintain the retirees’ current health care plans.

The suit was filed by the NYC Organization of Public Service Retirees, a group formed in opposition to the move to a privately administered Medicare Advantage plan. Steve Cohen, the lawyer representing the retiree organization, celebrated the injunction. 

“This is terrific for retirees,” he told New York Focus and THE CITY. “Thank goodness they’re not being rushed and being forced into an irrational decision.”

Frank tentatively prohibited the city and the new insurer — a partnership between EmblemHealth and Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield known as the Retiree Health Alliance — from enforcing a planned Oct. 31 deadline for retirees to opt out of the plan. 

The judge’s order does not, however, scrap the plan: Frank wrote that he “does not intend to disturb” the city’s choice to team with the Alliance.

The planned switch is the result of a 2014 agreement between de Blasio and the Municipal Labor Committee, a group of unions that represent city employees and retirees. The unions committed to $1.3 billion in annual health care savings in exchange for pay raises for members.

The switch to the Alliance will move retirees from their current arrangement of traditional government-administered Medicare plus a supplemental insurance program into a privately run system known as Medicare Advantage.

Source: The City