Skip to content
View Featured Image

Mayor Adams Keeps Pushing Medicare Advantage Despite Latest Court Defeat

Are These Guys Crazy!?!

Despite another loss in court, the City of New York, under the leadership of Mayor Eric Adams, will continue to try and push 250,000 municipal retirees into a profit-driven Medicare Advantage health insurance plan.

The City of New York’s decision to keep trying to push 250,000 municipal retirees into a profit-driven Medicare Advantage health insurance plan after yet another crushing court defeat on Tuesday has convinced many in the fight that Mayor Eric Adams and his privatization allies must be crazy.

“Yesterday was a great day. Retirees won our case again,” retired public school teacher and Cross-Union Retirees Organizing Committee [CROC] member Sarah Shapiro told Work-Bites. “After spending two months deliberating, the court came down with a ruling in our favor. Yet, the city still vows to appeal again. Will the mayor and our union misleaders in the Municipal Labor Committee [MLC] ever learn? Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome—these guys are insane! We vow to keep fighting!”

The New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division, First Judicial Department on May 21, delivered its unanimous decision affirming an earlier ruling by Judge Lyle E. Frank permanently enjoining New York City from eliminating retirees’ existing health insurance and automatically enrolling them in a new Aetna Medicare Advantage plan.

Law Department spokesperson Nicholas Paolucci, nonetheless, immediately released a statement declaring, “The city will seek the Court of Appeal’s review of today’s ruling. The city’s plan, which was negotiated closely with and supported by the Municipal Labor Committee, would improve retirees’ current plans and save $600 million annually. This is particularly important at a time when we are already facing significant fiscal and economic challenges.”

The purported $600 million in savings the City of New York says it’s chasing is a spurious figure that has long been disputed. Last year, Brad Lander, the city’s chief financial officer, told municipal retirees that pushing them into a profit-driven Aetna Medicare Advantage plan would maybe save the city $300 or $400 million. He then refused to register the Aetna Medicare Advantage contract Mayor Adams had already inked with the insurance industry giant.

“The City should go back to the table and negotiate a fair deal with the Unions—making them sell off their retirees for a raise is criminal,” Marianne Pizzitola, president of the New York City Organizaiton of Public Service Retirees, Tweeted yesterday. “Using the value of our benefits to finance theirs—ugly. We have had to fight this for three years and won nine times. We made our deals. We lived up to them. The City should live up to its promise.”

Former city manager and cancer survivor Roberta Gonzalez told Work-Bites that she remains concerned about New York City municipal retiree health care—and “Medicare’s ability to survive.”

“I’m pretty sure the MLC’s big three—UFT President Michael Mulgrew, DC37 Executive Director Henry Garrido, and Chairman Harry Nespoli—are not done with us,” she said. “And the mayor doesn’t seem to take kindly to criticism—and losing this battle. From what I see, he’s a sore loser.”

According to reports, Mulgrew actively avoided questions about retiree health care and completely ignored the Appellate court’s ruling during a UFT Retired Teachers Chapter meeting also held on Tuesday, May 21.

“The UFT retiree chapter meeting was a waste of time,” Shapiro told Work-Bites. “Mulgrew and [Chapter head] Tom Murphy did not utter a word about the retirees’ latest win in court yesterday. They would not call on any of us retirees who are vocal about our opposition to their plan to switch us into Medicare Disadvantage. Then they ended the meeting early to avoid our questions—that’s why we are working hard to replace them and the Unity minions by Retiree Advocate in the current retiree chapter election. Retiree Advocate will fight for our Medicare coverage and will never silence and berate the rank and file.”

Council of Municipal Retiree Organizations President Stu Eber believes the city will, indeed, file an appeal “rather than address the real issues of restructuring health care benefits that COMRO and others raised three years ago before the original law suit.”

“Now is the time for the state legislature to pass the Retiree Healthcare Bill and the City Council to form the blue ribbon panel requested two years ago,” he said.

Yesterday’s court victory wasn’t the only win for New York City municipal retirees battling back against the Medicare Advantage push. New York State senators also advanced legislation aimed at prohibiting public employers from diminishing retirees’ existing health care benefits statewide.

The women-led New York City Council under Speaker Adrienne Adams, however, continues to stifle legislation also aimed at protecting retirees’ Medicare and Medigap benefits at the local level.

Impact On Other Retirees?

Retired New York City Transit workers fighting their own union’s campaign to push them into a profit-driven Medicare Advantage plan believe Tuesday’s Appellate victory for New York City municipal retirees is also a big boost for them as well.

“It’s a big win,” TWU Local 100 Retirees President Lloyd Archer told Work-Bites. “Our lawyer already said it will help because written into our contract is there will be no diminishment of our health care. I do believe it will help our case. This is just the start for us.”

TWU Local 100 Retirees challenging the Medicare Advantage push have their own court date set for June 10.

“We continue to win in the courts and wonder if the city and the MLC will ever reverse course and allow retirees to retain their traditional Medicare and supplement,” DC 37 Retirees Association member Neal Frumkin told Work-Bites.

The DC 37 Retirees Association remains under administratorship and its officers suspended after AFSCME—the organization’s parent union—seized control in February. The action came after the group steadfastly refused to quit backing the New York City Organization of Public Service Retirees’ efforts in court.

Frumkin, however, doesn’t believe this latest court victory will impact AFSCME’s decision to takeover the DC 37 Retirees Association.

“They maintain that the Medicare Advantage debacle had nothing to do with the administratorship,” he said. “We are very upset about the conduct of AFSCME. We are now under a dictatorship without any pretense of democratic trade unionism.”

DC 37 Retirees Association members have appealed the administratorship and are taking “appropriate action within AFSCME.” But they aren’t ruling out also going to court, as well.

Harry Weiner, a retiree from the New York City Housing Authority, told Work-Bites it is time for the both Mayor Adams and the heads of the MLC to “cease and desist.”

“To stop spending taxpayer dollars and union dues, respectively, on endless litigation against retirees,” he said. “A blue ribbon panel containing all stakeholders should be formed to find alternative health benefits cost savings sought by the city.”

Lander also said this week that it’s “time for all parties to come to the table to identify creative and effective solutions.”

“I was and remain seriously concerned about the privatization of Medicare plans, overfilling by insurance companies, and barriers to care under Medicare Advantage,” the comptroller said in statement following the May 21, Appellate Court ruling. “It is vital that all seniors—and all New Yorkers—get quality health coverage as a basic human right.”

At the same time, however, Lander also warned, “we cannot ignore that there are real cost questions facing the city when it comes to health care.”

The City of New York has been funding municipal retirees’ Medigap supplement—the percentage not covered by traditional Medicare—as a condition of employment for well over a half century.

Weiner, meanwhile, also urged UFT retired teachers to cast their ballots for the entire Retiree Advocate slate.

“This ruling is all the more reason for members of the UFT Retiree Chapter not to vote for the Tom Murphy/Unity slate in their current election. They shamelessly parroted Michael Mulgrew’s lies about—and advocacy of—the Medicare Disadvantage plan,” he said.

Sign Up To Our Daily Digest

Independent media outlets are being suppressed and dropped by corporations like Google, Facebook and Twitter. Sign up for our daily email digest before it’s too late so you don’t miss the latest movement news.