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NYC Correction Captains’ Association Pres. Says Medicare Advantage is ‘Definitely Not a Better Plan’

(WORK-Bites)

By Joe Maniscalco

New York City’s Municipal Labor Committee [MLC] may be poised on Thursday to endorse an agreement with Aetna to privatize health care for hundreds of thousands of city employees — but it’s hard for Patrick Ferraiuolo, president of the Correction Captains’ Association, to comprehend why any labor leader would be endorsing a profit-driven scheme like Medicare Advantage. 

“Especially, when they, themselves, will be retired someday — and it’s definitely not a better plan,” the Correction Captains’ Association leader tells Work-Bites.”

“I represent 1,900 retired families,” Ferraiuolo continues, “I have some members that are very elderly — I’m talking about in their 80s, who’ve been retired for 35, 40 years with minimal pensions, a little Social Security, all right? For someone like that to have to have copayments and deductibles means a lot when you’re living on a budget. Sure, if you’re [MLC Chair] Harry Nespoli — and you’ve been a union leader for the last 30 years and you’re making big money and you’re gonna retire with a tremendous pension — the copays mean nothing. I’m looking to protect the men and women who it does mean something.”

Ferraiuolo’s organization stands out as one of the few uniformed unions in the city that has been very outspoken about where it stands on the campaign to strip municipal retirees of their traditional Medicare health insurance benefits and push them into a privatized Medicare Advantage program.

“The NYPD people have never spoken out about this at all and neither have the Fire union people,” Marianne Pizzitola, head of the FDNY EMS Retirees Association and president of the NYC Organization of Public Service Retirees tells Work-Bites. “They may have spoken out about not changing the [Administrative] Code — but none of them have adamantly spoken out about Medicare Advantage.”

By not speaking out, Pizzitola says, it makes the Police unions “look like they’re complicit and they’re willing to go along with it — or they have some side deal they don’t want to jeopardize.”

A Police Benevolent Association [PBA] source told Work-Bites this week that “as a matter of principle,” the union has historically preserved its prerogative to act independently of the MLC “negotiating on all matters affecting our members and that would include their health benefits and Medicare Advantage would fall into that category.”

“We are very much staying in our lane,” the source said. “The MLC can’t sign away our bargaining rights.”

Paul Di Giacomo, president of the Detective Endowment Association told Work-Bites he hasn’t yet “dissected” the summary agreement between the MLC and Aetna being voted on this week. 

“Looks like a decent plan right now,” he said, however. “But I have to go through each part of it and I plan on doing it this week. I have a lot going on.”

All This Rigamarole

Ferraiuolo has been opposed to the campaign to strip traditional Medicare health insurance coverage from municipal retirees since the city’s initial rollout. 

“[Retires] don’t need pre-approval with Medicare to go get an MRI, or go get a blood test,” he says. “Now, they’re gonna have to go through all this rigamarole to get pre-approval. They don’t know how to maneuver their way around this stuff — it’s very frustrating for them.”

Pizzitola calls the city’s Fire unions “frustrating” — and says it’s “really lame at this point they haven’t been more vocal” about the drive to  push municipal retirees into a profit-driven Medicare Advantage program. 

“They don’t understand the difference,” Pizzitola says. “They refuse to listen to the message.”

Vincent Variale, president of DC 37’s Local 3621, representing FDNY EMS officers, says he’s “heard many rumors and misleading so-called facts being put out there,” but “from what I have seen and the evidence presented to me, I don’t see any disadvantage of accepting the Medicare Advantage Plan by Aetna.”

“In fact,” Variale adds, “negotiating with Aetna they’ve gotten more in the way of less pre-approvals and less expenses. So, we have to come up with a savings and this was the best option and solution.”

The World That Exists

Variale still calls health care a “national problem” and says “our nation should be single payer with a universal healthcare system so that no matter where you go you don’t have to worry about healthcare.”

He further tells Work-Bites, “It’s ridiculous. We are one of the richest countries in the world and we can’t provide basic healthcare for our citizens. In the meantime, we have to exist in the world that exists.” 

Dr. Oliver Fein, chair of Physicians for National Health Program, Metro Chapter, and Professor of Clinical Medicine — Emeritus at Weill Cornell Medicine, points out, however, that New York City union leaders are actually key to making a single payer, universal healthcare system happen.

“They could be the leaders and the agents for change for this program to truly become public,” Dr. Fein tells Work-Bites. 

Ferraiuolo also jeers the 2014 deal under then Mayor Bill de Blasio and the MLC that saw $1 billion diverted from the Health Insurance Stabilization Fund to cover UFT raises, and wants to know how the City of New York got to the point where cost-savings demand stripping traditional Medicare benefits from municipal retirees.

“How was another union allowed to take money from a stabilization fund for their contract? That’s another thing that’s hard to comprehend,” Ferraiuolo says. “How does that even happen when the stabilization fund is supposed to be used for the health and welfare benefits for any member of the Municipal Labor Committee — not to fund your contract.”

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