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Home » Clarion » 2024 » March 2024 » PSC fights to protect retiree health care

PSC fights to protect retiree health care

Union counters mayor, files appeals briefBy ARI PAUL

A judge in Manhattan ruled last year that a City Hall plan to move municipal retirees into a privately-run Medicare Advantage health plan violated the city code and could not go forward. It was a huge victory for union retirees. And the PSC is fighting to ensure the ruling stands.

Medicare Rally

PSC members rally to defend retiree health care. Photo credit: Scott Heins

In August, Manhattan Judge Lyle Frank ruled that the city is “permanently enjoined from requiring any city retirees, and their dependents, from being removed from their current health insurance plan(s),” Gothamist reported, adding, “The City is also barred from forcing retirees or their dependents to enroll in an Aetna Medicare Advantage Plan – the proposed cost-cutting replacement – or requiring those parties to find their own health plan, per the ruling.”


The judgement came after years of member-led organizing and legal action in response to well-founded fears that the move would negatively impact retiree health-care coverage and open the door to further privatization of public service health benefits. While the Municipal Labor Committee – a coalition of city unions, which includes the PSC, that negotiates with the city on municipal health coverage – approved of the City Hall plan, the PSC was among a handful of unions that opposed it, in part over a lack of transparency about how the shift was taking place.

The administration of Mayor Eric Adams is appealing the decision. In January, the PSC filed an amicus brief (friend of the court) brief with the appeals court to support Judge Frank’s decision and urging the court to uphold that decision.

PSC President James Davis said in a statement: “The PSC is committed to holding the city to its promise to provide workers with not-for-profit, Medicare-based health-care coverage in retirement. We believe Justice Frank’s ruling should stand and that the solution to increasing municipal health-care costs must not be for the city to break faith with retirees or pass costs on to in-service workers.”

The amicus brief states that the city code is clear, and that the mayor’s plan would violate that provision by shifting health-care costs onto retirees.

“I’m delighted that the PSC has defended retirees’ publicly funded Medicare and City Senior Care,” said Nancy Romer, a retiree officer on the union’s executive council. “Our brave union leads the way in protecting members against all aggressors.”

Adams, whose poll numbers have plummeted as federal investigators probe his campaign finances and as he enacts draconian cuts throughout city government, has been defiant toward the judge’s ruling. He told reporters in November, “We’re dealing with a fiscal cliff on our health care. We’re dealing with a fiscal cliff that’s questioned us an unbelievable amount,” adding, “And so we sat down with the unions, we sat down with the reps and said, ‘How do we figure this out?’ And we’re still in the process of trying to figure it out. So I notice it’s an issue that we’re all feeling, but the cost of health care has skyrocketed through the roof, through the roof.”


As reported in December’s Clarion, the City is now in the process of considering bids from prospective providers of a new comprehensive benefits plan for in-service members, currently provided by GHI/Empire, with the intention of saving $1 billion a year on health-care costs. Although such a move could increase the size of the network of providers available to PSC members, the PSC is concerned that the winning bidder may try to achieve these savings through mechanisms such as increased pre-authorization requirements and hospital tiering, which would charge members more to be treated at higher-priced hospitals. The PSC is actively preparing to educate and agitate with our members and allies to oppose attempts to achieve savings by dramatically increasing costs or diluting the benefits our members receive.

Published: February 27, 2024

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