New York City union leaders recently voted to transition 250,000 retirees from their current SeniorCare healthcare plan, which the city government funds, to Medicare Advantage, a partially-privatized plan run by private insurance company, Aetna. New York City had been pushing for the transition to save money since 2018, based on an agreement in which the unions and the city agreed to reduce healthcare costs starting in 2021.
The vote was not unanimous, with 26 of 102 union leaders on the committee voting against the transition in healthcare coverage. Critics claimed that access would be limited under the Advantage plan due to preauthorization requirements from Aetna, which could lead to denials or delays of medical care.
The committee tallied 941 votes in favor and 253 votes against, which was a weighted vote based on unions’ membership numbers.
United Federation of Teachers (UFT) reportedly backed the transition, representing a significant portion of ‘yes’ votes. UFT President Michael Mulgrew said, “The plan is designed to provide high-quality, premium-free health care.” He continued, “We will continue to monitor its implementation to ensure that Aetna meets its obligations to our retirees.”
A Twitter account called “Educators of NYC” called the transition plan “Mulgrewcare” and criticized UFT and Mulgrew for changing their mind on retirees’ healthcare benefits.
The same Twitter account said, “Retirees who gave their lives in service for NYC [were] sold out once more by those in @UFT @DC37NY leadership who hold nearly a supermajority.”
Needless to say, the vote results upset retirees, with a retired special education teacher telling the press, “It’s inhumane how the city lied to us … We were promised this, and now they’re going back on their promise.”
In 2021, a large group of retirees from several unions throughout the city who were concerned about this issue formed their own organization, NYC Organization for Public Service Retirees, “to fight the impending changes to our healthcare,” according to their website. A statement on the site said, “For our former unions and the City of NY to strip benefits away from us, automatically enroll us in a private Medicare plan, violate the contracts that were in place when we left, is a disgrace.”
Medicare Advantage will become the premium-free coverage for retired city public employees on September 1, 2023. The city claims that the plan will provide excellent coverage while saving the city millions of dollars each year, due to federal subsidies.