What's Happening to Retiree Healthcare

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NYC is changing retiree healthcare benefits. Municipal retirees (including CUNY) originally had to decide by October 31. But that deadline has now been extended indefinitely by a court order (see below). For most PSC retirees, once they make a decision, it means one of two options: (1) Moving into a premium free Medicare Advantage plan or (2) Staying in their NYC current plan, but paying a premium for supplemental insurance.

The web page is organized into five parts:


JUDGE DELAYS RETIREE HEALTHCARE SWITCH TO APRIL: The City planned to have its Medicare Advantage Plus plan in place on January 1, 2022. In a court order, made public at 5 pm on Tuesday, December 14, Justice Leon E. Frank in effect said NOT SO FAST. He extended his injunction, pushing back implementation of the Medicare Advantage Plus plan to April 1, 2022 and the opt-out date to March 31, 2022.

The order was in response to the lawsuit brought by NYC Organization of Public Service Retirees.

Frank wrote that his “preliminary injunction will remain in effect until” the City and the Medicare Advantage vendor, The Alliance, satisfy "the following conditions:"

  1. "The effective date of the Medicare Advantage Plus Plan (the “Advantage Plan”) shall be April 1, 2022, with the opt-out period to end March 31, 2022. However, there will be a continuing opt-out period until June 30, 2022, even while the Advantage Plan is in effect;"
  2. "Respondents shall send to all retirees a letter containing a list of the corrections and additions made to the previously sent Enrollment Guide as discussed between the parties, on or before January 7, 2022. The letter must contain information on how a retiree can obtain a corrected Enrollment Guide free of charge, and the specific web addresses where the corrected Enrollment Plan may be seen; and"
  3. "Respondents must ensure that there only be one set of deductibles in the calendar year 2022 for all retirees."

In addition, in order to clarify which medical providers accept the MA+ plan, the judge ordered the City to report bi-weekly on “how many medical providers have been contacted personally regarding the plan…[and] how many medical providers in such areas have yet to be personally contacted about the plan, and how and when those additional medical providers will be contacted.”

THE CITY’S “THE DOG ATE MY HOMEWORK” DEFENSE: Judge Frank clearly rejected the City’s contention before his court that it could not send out a new enrollment guide to correct many errors in the original because of “a global paper supply shortage.” He ordered that the City and vendor correct the enrollment guide and provided a three-month window for retirees to evaluate the corrected material and make a choice to opt-in or out.
In sum, then, the judge’s order:

  • Keeps the premium-free MA+ plan in place, but delays implementation at the earliest until 4/1/22
  • Sets 3/31/22 as the opt-out deadline, but also ordered an opt-out option until 6/30/22 for those enrolled in the MA+ plan who decide they want to leave it.
  • Guarantees that retirees will pay only one annual deductible in the “calendar year 2022.”
  • Instructs the City to notify all municipal retirees of errors in the original MA+ material, telling them how to obtain a corrected enrollment guide.
  • Monitors bi-weekly the City’s (and vendor’s) personal outreach to medical providers, ostensibly (1) confirming whether or not these providers will accept the plan and (2) producing an accurate list of participating providers.

Bottom Line: If the judge’s order stands, retirees will continue with City coverage premium-free until March 31. For over 90% of municipal retirees this means traditional Medicare with NYC Senior Care (Emblem) as their secondary insurance.

Click here to read the judge’s order.

Here is a link to an article on the judge's decision.

EMBLEM’S COPAYS FOR NYC SENIOR CARE. The somewhat good news from the judge’s chambers was tempered by a “Dear City of New York Retiree” letter from Emblem Health announcing previous negotiated copays that took effect on January 1 for those currently on the GHI/Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield Senior Care plan. The vast majority of PSC and NYC retirees have Senior Care as their supplementary insurance to traditional Medicare.

Emblem listed a host of services and procedures for which there will be a $15 copay. It then informed recipients that “this is not a full list of services with a copay.”

The NYC Office of Labor Relations (OLR) and the Municipal Labor Committee (MLC) negotiated the copays PRIOR to their agreement to move most NYC retirees from traditional Medicare to the privatized Medicare Advantage plan. The copays were scheduled to go into effect much earlier, but implementation was delayed until 1/1/22. We alerted members at our December chapter meeting of the impending copays. Advance notice, however, doesn’t make them more palatable. The reality that those opting out and remaining on Senior Care will soon confront is one of copays on top of a premium for a plan once premium-free.

Emblem’s “Dear City of New York Retiree” letter concludes with the hollow sentence “We’re committed to supporting you.”

The support we need is not Emblem’s, but that of multiple retiree and union voices pressing the new mayoral administration and the courts to reverse the copays and the move to privatized Medicare. A daunting task, but one we must pursue.



  1. Check NYC OLR FAQs;
  2. If still no answers, call the Alliance toll free number at 1-833-325-1190, Monday to Friday, 8 am to 9 pm;
  3. If still no answers, check the PSC/CUNY Welfare Fund FAQS;
  4. And if still no answers, only then send an email to communications@psccunywf.org (this is the email your questions should be routed to, not the retiree chapter email address).


We have created the first iteration of a checklist for the enrollment process HERE. We will update it as we receive more information and get unanswered questions answered.




The New York City Office of Labor Relations (OLR) changed the opt out and enrollment dates to September 15 – October 31 from the original 9/1 to 10/15 dates. Now a judge has issued a Temporary Restraining Order extending the enrollment deadline indefinitely. OLR and the Alliance have published online two enrollment guides. But the judge has determinedt that the guides are inaccurate or incomplete in several areas and has Instructsed the City to notify all municipal retirees of errors in the original MA+ material, telling them how to obtain a corrected enrollment guide.

  1. An enrollment guide "intended for retirees currently on the GHI/Empire BlueCross BlueShield Senior Care plan. This guide was mailed to retirees' homes in early and mid-September.
  2. An enrollment guide intended for members of health plans other than Senior Care (i.e., Aetna, Cigna, Elderplan, Empire, HIP VIP, United HealthCare). OLR only began mailing the enrollment guide "intended for members of health plans other than Senior Care" in late September.


By default, you will be enrolled in the Alliance Medicare Advantage plan. If you want to stay on traditional Medicare, you will have to complete an opt out form: If your spouse is on your coverage, BOTH of you will need to submit an opt out form.

  1. Opt-out Form for current Senior Care members.
  2. Opt-out form for current non-senior Care members.

If you wish to cease your City of New York retiree health coverage altogether, complete the NYC Health Benefits Application/Change Form available on the Health Benefits Program website at: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/olr/health/retiree/health-retiree-forms-and-downloads.page. Please be advised, you will NOT be eligible for the reimbursement by the City of the Medicare Part B premium 833-325-1190if you cease City of New York retiree health coverage. You may, however, reenroll in City retiree health benefits during the next Transfer Period.


1) The Alliance said they would not send out letters until a formal opt-out deadline is set, and they would send them after the deadline.
2) Submitting the opt-out form online will now result in an email confirmation. That may not have been the case originally. When an opt-out submission includes an email address, the confirmation will be emailed to that address promptly. (Be sure to check your SPAM folder, as they reportedly sometimes end up there.) To opt out on the electronic form, go to https://nyc-ma-plus.empireblue.com/optout/.
3) Some folks have gotten verbal confirmation of receipt of their mailed opt-out forms by calling the Alliance’s informational phone number at 833-325-1190.


If you opt out and end up paying a monthly premium (e.g. $191 plus for NY Senior Care), payments will be deduted from your monthly pension check. The process is relatively straightforward for those in TRS. The premium will deducted from you monthly pension benefit. If you are in TIAA, the process is not as straightforward, but there are options for payment through an annuity or direct billing, including autmatic debit from your bank account. Click here for details.

For context and background to this issue, those in TIAA should read the article (pp. 6-8) by Bonnie Nelson in the October retiree newsletter -- "TIAA, CUNY AND THE MOVE TO MEDICARE ADVANTAGE." The October issue of Turning the Page is available here.


If you opt out of the Alliance Medicare Advantage plan in order to continue with your current NYC health care plan, you will have to pay a monthly premium (except for HIP VIP and Aetna NY/NJ/PA which are premium free). Click here to see the rates on the NYC Office of Labor Relations (OLR) website. Note that you will NOT be paying for prescription drug coverage since that is already covered by the PSC CUNY Welfare Fund.



You will only be eligible for Medicare Part B (and if you qualify, IRMAA) reimbursements from NYC if you are in the Alliance Medicare Advantage plan or if you opt out and continue on your present NYC health plan. (If you are not familiar with the NYC Medicare Part B and IRMAA reimbursement policy, you can read about it in this primer that we have prepared on the subject.)

If You Have Submitted an Application But Have Not Received Your IRMAA Reimbursement. The Office of Labor Relations has informed us that if you have not yet received your IRMAA reimbursement check for 2020, you should email Deion.Duncan@olr.nyc.gov at OLR. Please do not submit duplicate applications; this will just increase the delays.


Letter from James Davis to Retirees on Healthcare Options


Take action now to be sure that the NYC Employee Benefits Program has your correct mailing address, particularly if you did not receive a Medicare “Notice of Change” letter from NYC last summer. The form to submit to the NYC Employee Benefits Program is here. Have you ben receiving mailings from the PSC and the Welfare Fund. If not, make sure both the PSC and the Welfare Fund have your correct address by entering your name and correct mailing address and mailing it to the PSC-CUNY Welfare Fund at 61 Broadway, 15th floor, New York, NY 10006.


This is automatically included in the Alliance Medicare Advantage Plan. However, if you opt out and pay the premium to continue in GHI/Empire Senior Care and presently have the rider, it will be grandfathered in for next year at a cost of $2.83 a month. To find out if you presently have the rider, call the Emblem Customer Service number at 212-501-4444. If you do not have the rider, and you are opting out to continue in GHI/Empire Senior Care, you can sign up for the rider during the November transfer period. To add the rider, this is the form, which is available on the NYC HBP website. Instructions are on page 2: https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/olr/downloads/pdf/health/health-benefits-app...


NavigatingRetireeHealthcare.jpegThere is an excellent article in the October Clarion by Deborah Bell on "Navigating Retiree Healthcare Insurance." All members should receive a hard copy in the mail. Read it online here.


Whatever your choice -- Medicare Advantage or staying with a traditional Medicare plan -- your choice is not irrevocable. Every fall (October or November) there will be a transfer period so retirees can change plans, from MA+ to Senior Care or from Senior Care to MA+, for the following year. Retirees currently enrolled in another supplemental plan who enroll in MA+ for 2022 will be able to switch back to the old plan only next year, for 2023. In addition, you may use your “Once in A Lifetime” option (you must be retired one year to use this option) at any time to change your health plan.


Retirees are getting conflicting answers from their providers. Here is an information sheet that the Empire/Alliance shares with doctors and medical providers.


Update: A NYS judge continued a temporay restraining order, extending the opt-out period for several months and pushing back the implementation of the Medicare Advaage + program to April 1 at the earliest. Scroll to the top of this page for details.

Three lawsuits in the courts sought injunctive relief to stop implementation of the NYC retiree healthcare changes. Two of the suits were by losing bidders for the Medicare Advantage contract – UnitedHealthCare and Aetna. A third, filed by the NYC Organization of Public Service Retirees, represents municipal retirees. Over 12,000 city retirees have joined its Facebook page, including PSC retirees. All three lawsuits, while not combined, were before the same judge, Lyle E. Frank on Wednesday, October 20. The next day, he issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) extending the enrollment deadline for the retiree healthcare plans beyond October 31. He wrote, "the "Court feels that the method of implementation of this plan at present has been irrational, and thus arbitrary and capricious." But the "Court has upheld the process used to pick the Alliance, so the entire process will not need to begin anew." In effect, he ruled against Aetna and UnitedHealthCare, keeping the Alliance NYC Mediare Plus plan in place.

The NYC Organization of Public Service Retirees has created a website at http://www.nycretirees.org/, where you can sign up for an email newsletter. The web page has information on how to make a monetary contribution to the lawsuit, which many PSC retirees have done.

Click HERE to read the TRO.


The City Council Committee on Civil Service and Labor, held a hearing on Thursday, October 28th. Several PSC retirees submitted teistimony, as did James Davis, President of the PSC. Bill Friedheim, chair of the retirees chapter testified in person.

The meeting was most notable for the aggressive cross examination of the commissioner and deputy commissioner of tlhe Office of Labor Relations by council members, particularly Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal. The retiree chapter will provide a more detailed report in the next newsletter.

A video of the hearing is avallable here. (At the top of the web page, look for "meeting video" and click the link.)


The NYC Office of Labor Relations (OLR) hosted a
hearing on the contract before submitting it to the NYC Comptroller. The hearing was absolute bedlam, to the point where speakers could not register to testify and could only be heard by out-shouting others trying to talk. More than 250 attended, but only a handful got to testify. The hearing was organized as a telephone conference call where anyone could press *6 to unmute, which meant that multiple attendees tried to talk at the same time. An account in the online city journal, New York Focus, captured the absurdity of what the Office of Labor Relations (OLR) publicized as a hearing. OLR did not create even a bare bones structure for registering, for testifying and for conducting the hearing in an orderly manner. Even so, many retirees tried to testify; not one supported the Medicare Advantage plan. Click here to read the NY Focus piece. James Davis, President of the PSC, submitted testimony based on a close reading of the document which raised serious questions about lack of accountability in the contract for the vendor. He urged "elected officials of the City to reject the contract because it is significantly flawed." Click here to read his testimony.


NEW YORK, N.Y.—Sporting sparkly party hats and lifting empty plastic champagne glasses, about 50 retired city workers gathered on the stone steps of Brooklyn Borough Hall Dec. 21 to wish mayor-elect Eric Adams a happy new year — and urging him to cancel the city’s plan to switch their health care from traditional Medicare to a private Medicare Advantage plan.

“We’re wishing Eric Adams Happy New Year, and also telling him our wishes: To have a happy healthy new year, we need our traditional Medicare back,”....
--From an article in the Labor Press describing a 12/21 action at Brooklyn Borough Hall sponsored by the Cross Union Retiree Organizing Committee (CROC). Read the full Labor Press article here.


This is how we reported in real time to the MLC vote and PSC response.

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. [implementation, as aresult of a court order, has been pushed back to April 1, 2022.]

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 suplementary insurance. Retirees 65 years and older will automatically be enrolled in the new Medicare Advantage Plus program effective January 1, 2022 [Now April 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 (which by court order has been extended indefinitely), but you will have to pay a premium to stay on most of the current NYC plans. For retirees who opt out and wish to stay on the GHI/Empire BlueCross BlueShield Senior Care Supplementary 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 are on the OLR website here.

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).

On Tuesday, July 27, the PSC set up the first of meeting 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. Subsequently, the Retirees Chapter held information sessions, videos of which you can find here.

retireehealthcare03.jpgPSC RESPONSE. For several months, the PSC 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 played 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), a group of municipal retirees, has filed a lawsuit to reverse NYC's healthcare changes for its retirees. Its lawsuit, as detailed on the top of this page, has had a profound impact, resulting in a delay of implementation of the Medicare Advantage + plan to April 1, 2022 at the earliest and closer supervision by the court over the City's implementation.

Scroll to the top of this web page for details on judge Leon E. Frank's extension of a TRO in response to the suit. You can find out more about the group and the lawsuit here on its Facebook page. To pay its legal costs, the group seeks to raise several hundred thousand dollars. To contribute, click here. But if you don't have Facebook, you can go to a website it has created at http://www.nycretirees.org/. There you can sign up for an email newsletter. The web page has information on how to make a monetary contribution to the lawsuit, which many PSC retirees have done. You can access the court documents filed by the group here.

SEPTEMBER 24 DIE-IN: This was a street theater event 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. Click here for a shorrt video of the event.


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