Guest Opinion: Why Protecting Traditional Medicare is Important to Us All

Chelsea Community News, John Mudd, July 1, 2023

On Monday, January 9th, 2023, The New York City Council held a hearing to consider legislation amending the administrative code to preserve health care choice for retirees. But amending the code does nothing to preserve choice. The groans and rebuttals from city workers and retirees filling the main floor and balcony said as much (to view the hearing, click here).

My name is John Mudd. I’m with the Midtown South Community Council (MSCC). We’ve been serving the public for 38 years by taking issue with deplorable health, hunger, homelessness, and housing conditions. MSCC joins City workers and retirees in the fight to stop Administrative Code 12-126 from being amended. Doing otherwise will be a threat to their health.

Union leaders gave plenty of reasons for the need to cover rising hospital and drug costs—using words like “ensure,” “preserve,” and “protect” while accusing the retirees of lying; riling the crowd while twisting reality and defending their sinister intent.

Daniel Pollock, The First Deputy Commissioner at The City of New York Office of Labor Relations, was particularly worrisome, declaring, “This isn’t about whether the Advantage plan proceeds, we are planning on moving forward with that plan. We think this amendment is necessary to provide the choices for the retirees.”

UFT President Michael Mulgrew said it’s about a fight for health care costs. Henry Gorrido, Executive Director of District Council 37 (with 150,000 members and nearly 89,000 retirees) and other union representatives said the bill provides choice. An agreeable bunch, they assured us they’ve done everything in their power to work within a system to hold down costs. Gorrido asserted the cost is outpacing the budget, and with no “stabilization” funds available, we’re short $1.8 billion ($600 million annually) to cover the costs of health care. And “We’re going to do everything in our power to serve our members. We’ve got 75% of care given without the need for prior authorization.”

I believe they are earnest in their efforts, but not in prioritizing their retiree’s health. I wouldn’t want to be the 25% having to get an authorization during some medical emergency, and I don’t believe insurers should dictate how doctors should care for the public.

When questioning the union representatives as to why there was so much resistance to changing this code, they gave a host of answers, including: They weren’t allowed to explain the truth of it because former NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio wanted to push it through; Change is hard; Change has to be made; Nobody likes change—and my favorite: They were up against a “cottage industry” focused on how to stop the Medicare Advantage Plan.

NYC Council Member Lincoln Restler said the Union is “doing the best they can in an earnest heartfelt way and we have people who are truly fearful of what this means for their health care,” and what “We’re all struggling with is the inability to communicate to them, that it is not as devastating as they think it is. The crux of the challenge…how can we compromise and work toward a path to negotiate the interests” of the health care industry and force “the compromises necessary to move forward.”

Read More: Chelsea Community News