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Defend health benefits for NYC employees, retirees

Nov 07, 2022

Dear PSC member,

I am writing with an update on the struggle to maintain quality, premium-free health care benefits for CUNY employees and retirees, and with an urgent ask of you.

What started more than a year ago as a dispute over Medicare Advantage has become a struggle embroiling the Adams administration, the City Council, the Municipal Labor Committee, and union members. The outcome could affect the health benefits for CUNY retirees and their dependents, as well as the health benefits for active members. Despite its technical elements, the struggle boils down to this: the City must address the rising cost of health care without sacrificing quality or imposing premiums on employees and retirees. The PSC believes there are alternatives to the current path the City has chosen, and we urge you to contact your City Council member, Speaker Adrienne Adams, and Mayor Eric Adams to say so.

The Municipal Labor Committee, the group of unions that bargain with the City over health care, voted last year to transition retirees from traditional Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan. The PSC was one of the unions that opposed this shift. A group of municipal retirees sued, and the court blocked the City from imposing premiums on retirees who opted out of Medicare Advantage. The City appealed the decision, but it is a lengthy process. So the Adams administration has threatened to delay negotiating raises for open union contracts unless the MLC supports the shift to Medicare Advantage, despite the fact that many municipal retirees do not want it and cannot afford the roughly $200/month premium to opt out of Medicare Advantage and keep their current Medicare/Medigap plan.

The Adams administration is reportedly considering imposing a single Medicare Advantage plan for all Medicare-eligible retirees, without any other options, unless the City Council agrees to change NYC Administrative Code 12-126, the law that governs the provision of health benefits.* The proposed change would remove the floor beneath the City contribution to employee and retiree health care, permitting the City to implement a Medicare Advantage plan without even having approved a contract and to impose premiums on retirees who opt out. It could also potentially erode the health benefits of active employees because it would turn a benefit that is guaranteed by law into a subject of collective bargaining between the City and the MLC. As you know, the PSC was among the few MLC unions that voted against the proposed Administrative Code change, and we continue to oppose it. PSC members have sent nearly 5,000 letters to City Council representatives – send yours today if you have not done so already.

While we organize against these harmful, anti-worker plans of the Adams administration, we realize it is not enough just to say No. We have advocated that the City work with the MLC on other ways to contain the skyrocketing cost of health care, including self-insurance, collective drug purchasing, dealing aggressively with exorbitant hospital charges, and issuing a formal request for proposals for a comprehensive benefits plan so the City’s current provider is incentivized to do better. We believe in the long run a single-payer health insurance program is necessary, but we also recognize the urgency of the moment and believe that the City must not place the burden of saving $600 million annually on the backs of municipal retirees and their dependents by forcing them into a Medicare Advantage plan or into premiums for opting out. We have advocated for an alternate source of funding from the City’s current reserves and are pressing for this alternative approach with Council members and the MLC leadership.

Join us in this effort by contacting your Council member now, or by participating in a meeting of PSC members with Council representatives.

In solidarity,

James Davis, President

Published: November 7, 2022 | Last Modified: November 9, 2022

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