What's Happening to Retiree Healthcare

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On Wednesday, July 14, the Municipal Labor Committee (MLC) voted to approve a contract with the NYC Office of Labor Relations (OLR) to move city retirees, including CUNY retirees, from traditional Medicare with supplemental city insurance to a privatized Medicare Advantage plan. The transition would take effect on January 1, 2022. The PSC cast a "NO" vote.

The Medicare Advantage vendor is Alliance, a partnership of Empire BlueCross BlueShield and Emblem Health.

Members can choose to go into the Medicare Advantage plan or stay with traditional Medicare but would have to pay for their own Medigap insurance. Retirees 65 years and older will automatically be enrolled in the new Medicare Advantage Plus program effective January 1, 2022, unless they affirmatively opt out. The retiree chapter, to put it charitably, is most unhappy that the City and MLC chose that the default for Medicare eligible retirees would be automatic enrollment in the Medicare Advantage plan.

You can choose to remain on your current NYC plan by opting out of the NYC Medicare Advantage Plus plan during the opt-out period between September 15 – October 31, but you will have to pay a premium to stay on one of the current NYC plans. For retirees who opt out and wish to stay on the GHI/Empire BlueCross BlueShield Senior Care Medigap plan, you will pay $191.57 a month per person and the plan will have co-pays (plus an additional $2.83 a month if you purchase the 365 day hospital rider). Premiums for other plans will be published shorty on the OLR Retiree Healthcare page.

[NOTE: The New York City Office of Labor Relations did not mail enrollment packets in mid-August, as we were first told, but now informs us that it will be sending them early September. The dates for opting out, let alone receiving packets, are a moving target that does not inspire confidence in the OLR. We'll provide updated information as soon as we are able to verify it.]

The City will continue to reimburse for Medicare Part B and IRMAA ONLY IF:

  • One signs up for the Alliance Medicare Advantage plan;
  • OR, one chooses to enroll in and pay premiums for one of the City's health plans, including the current senior care (with a premium of $191.57 per month per person).

The changes in NYC retiree healthcare benefits raise lots of questions for our members and for all municipal retirees. The NYC Office of Labor Relations (OLR) has posted a page with FAQs and the vendor, Alliance, has established a toll free call center for queries.

We will monitor this information for accuracy and will seek answers from the City and vendor for any questions not currently addressed.
Right now, the PSC is trying to figure out what we know, and maybe more importantly, what we do not know and need to find out so that we can present affected members with up-to-date, information that we can independently verify.

Questions about NYC's Transition to the Medicare Advantage Plus Plan. If you have questions about the Medicare Advantage plan that are not addressed by the links we have provided, click here. We will forward your question to the appropriate person at the Empire BlueCross BlueShield/Emblem Health Alliance.

On Tuesday, July 27, the PSC set up the first of hopefully several meetings with the vendor, Alliance, where members had the opportunity to ask questions. Here is a video of that meeting. A follow-up information meeting took place on August 30. Here is a video of that meeting.

retireehealthcare03.jpgPSC RESPONSE. For the past three months, the PSC has raised serious concerns about the closed nature of the process, urging more transparency from the MLC and calling on it to seek savings through alternative means, such as working with other unions to contain skyrocketing hospital costs.

At its April 15th meeting, by unanimous vote, the PSC Delegate Assembly supported a call for a moratorium on negotiations about the change to a Medicare Advantage plan until PSC members have the information necessary to assess the matter.

The union urged the MLC to ensure sufficient time for members to review any proposal before representatives vote on it and promised to schedule an online forum for PSC members when information was made available about any Medicare Advantage plan the MLC is considering for approval. That forum, with close to 800 people attending, took place on Tuesday, July 13. (A video of the forum is available here.)

Before the forum, PSC President James Davis stated:

“The MLC’s vote on approval is being held just six days after the proposal was made available to leaders of the MLC unions, an inadequate review period. The PSC would like to hear in advance of Wednesday’s vote from interested members of our bargaining unit – current or future retirees – about the proposed Medicare Advantage Plan, a group plan developed by Emblem/GHI/Anthem. We have been asking many questions of the MLC, and we’re sure you will have your own. Information provided by the MLC is available here: Intro, Strategic plan, Comparison.”

Meanwhile, the PSC put out a press release on Monday, July 12 entitled PSC Call for Postponement of Upcoming Municipal Labor Committee Vote on Changes to Retiree Health Insurance. Click here to read it.

The press release quotes PSC President James Davis making the case to postpone the MLC vote:

“Our members are deeply troubled by the MLC’s rush to vote on this proposal. Five days is not enough time to consult on such a consequential decision. Although the MLC agreed to work with the City on healthcare savings measures in 2015 and 2018, this vote to seek savings through the retiree medical plan comes at a time when the City can well afford to pursue alternatives. This austerity measure opens the door to further cost-cutting and diminished benefits in future contracts."

“We are concerned by the closed nature of the negotiations. Municipal retirees should have a chance to review the agreement and engage with their representatives to the MLC before a vote. MLC unions have not been provided with a copy of the contract with the proposed vendor."

The PSC's motion to postpone was defeated.

Subsequently, three healthcare unions (Committee of Interns and Residents, Doctors' Council and New York State Nurses Association) voted "no" on the Medicare Advantage motion together with the PSC and a fifth union, the Sergreants Benevolent Association. The vote was weighted by union memberdship, but even without a weighted ballot, it would have carried by a large margin.


Together, with thousands of other municipal retirees, we delayed the MLC vote and undoubtedly influenced the proposed Medicare Advantage plan. But we did NOT stop it. Our voices on this still need to be heard. Below is a record of the retirees chapter advocacy work on this issue from March through the summer.

THE PETITION. PSC retirees worked with the Council of Municipal Retiree Organizations (COMRO) on mobilizing municipal retirees in response to the move to Medicare Advantage. COMRO has an online petition addressed to the mayor and the MLC entitled “Preserve Medicare Part B for NYC Retirees.” The petition has generated over 26,000 signatures. The more signatures gathered, the stronger the impact. Actives ("retirees in training") as well as retirees need to endorse this petition. To view the petition and add your name, click here.

June 30 March and Rally. On the hottest day of the year, PSC retirees and future retirees joined retirees and future retirees from across the municipal workforce for a rally at Bowling Green and march to City Hall. Several hundred marched, including a few with canes and walkers -- "summer soldiers" in blistering heat demanding that the MLC and OLR call for a moratorium in negotiations, make their deliberations transparent and listen to the voices of the 250,000 municipal retirees affected. There were stops at unions along the march route (UFT and PSC) and the NYC Office of Labor Relations Two PSC retirees were among the speakers -- Eileen Moran and Nancy Romer. Here is a short video of the march and rally.

FORUM: THURSDAY, JUNE 17. City to Retirees: Private Health Care ─ Take It or Leave It! More than 650 people attended this webinar. The NY Metro Chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) presented a program examining the proposed move of municipal retirees from traditional Medicare to a private, for profit, Medicare Advantage Plan. The forum reached out to municipal retirees, but it also took the story to a much wider audience. There was analysis by health care professionals and economists and a report on pushback by NYC retirees. PSC retirees playd a prominent role in the program.

There was also a roadmap presented of future actions and pushback against NYC/MLC proposed healthcare moves. Here is a link to a video of the forum:

FORUM: THURSDAY, JUNE 24. How Do We Stop the Move of Municipal Retirees to Medicare Advantage?
More than 600 attendees participated in a meeting on Thursday, June 24 via Zoom. Panelists representing a cross-section of NYC retirees and unions discussed actions we can take in opposition to the proposed move of municipal retirees from traditional Medicare to a private, for-profit, Medicare Advantage Plan. There was a robust question and answer period with lots of suggestions about how we can push back. The webinar was hosted by the NY StateWide Senior Action Council. Once again, PSC retirees played an important role in the program.

TWO NEWSLETTERS WITH REPORTING AND ANALYSIS ON THE ISSUE: Check out the April and May isuess of our newsletter, Turning The Page:

TWO CHAPTER MEETINGS ON THIS ISSUE: The chapter devoted two meetings to the MLC proposal to move retiree healthcare to Medical Advantage and our response. Both meetings were recorded. Click below to see the Videos:

THE APRIL 5TH MEEETING: 320 retirees attended. We invited two key people to discuss this and answer questions: PSC President Barbara Bowen, who is on the MLC Steering Committee, and Donna Costa, Executive Director of the PSC/CUNY Welfare Fund and a member of an MLC committee assessing the two Medicare Advantage finalists for an RFP issued by the city. Len Rodberg, Professor Emeritus from Queens College, a prominent advocate for single-payer healthcare and a PSC retiree, presented a brief history of Medicare Advantage as a privatized, for profit version of Medicare (which of course raises lots of questions.) Click HERE for a PDF of the PowerPoint slides Prof. Rodberg used in his presentation.

There is a full recording of the Zoom meeting. Click HERE for the link.

At the beginning of the meeting, a statement of urgent concern, unanimously endorsed by the Retiree Chapter Executive Committee, was read. It is available here.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the body passed the following resolution (93.5% to 6.5%):

As a matter of urgent concern, the Retiree Chapter of the Professional Staff Congress requests that the PSC seek a moratorium on any agreement between NYC and the Municipal Labor Committee to move retiree healthcare coverage from Medicare/Senior Care to Medicare Advantage.

Municipal retirees affected by the proposed changes to retiree coverage have not been provided adequate and timely information nor have they had opportunities to discuss and debate the controversies around Medicare Advantage plans, the personal effects of such a change and its policy implications.

On April 15th, The Delegate Assembly, the principal governing body of the Professional Staff Congress, voted unanimously (115 to 0) to support the chapter's call for a moratorium on consideration by NYC and MLC of any agreement to move retiree healthcare to a Medicare Advantage program.

(Click HERE for a list of possible actions we can take to push for a moratorium.)

THE MAY 3RD MEETING: The second half of this meeting, from 2 – 3:30 pm, focused on updates on the NYC/MLC negotiations on retirement health insurance and the organized response to these moves. There was a discussion of possible actions. The meeting was recorded. Click here for a video.

FACEBOOK PAGE: A group of municipal retirees has set up a Facebook group -- "Preserve Medicare Parts A and B for NYC Retirees (PTPM)." You can access it here.

NYC ORGANIZATION OF PUBLIC SERVICE RETIREES (FOR BENEFIT PRESERVATION) is a group of municipal retirees seeking to raise a minimum of $50,000 to mount a legal challenge to the OLR/MLC move to change NYC retiree healthcare. The group has created a Facebook page. Here is the link.

SEPTEMBER 24 DIE-IN: The Executive Committee of the Retirees Chapter has endorsed this event. Join us for street theater on Friday, September 24th at City Hall to protest the NYC move of retiree healthcare from traditional Medicare to a privatized, for profit Medicare Advantage Plan.


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