In his hour long spin at the DA in which he attempted to extol the virtues of our new contract proposal, Michael Mulgrew made certain that we were certain that there would be no changes to our health insurance plans under the new, friendly era of “everything will be fine” contract negotiations. In fact an FAQ on the UFT website states the following in a section labeled “Health Care”
Will I be able to keep my current insurance plan and will my network of doctors and hospitals remain the same?
Yes and yes.
No question about, we will save money (perhaps even get a bonus) and you will get to keep your doctor (a promise someone else couldn’t keep).
Health insurance for City workers has, for many years, been negotiated not only separately from contracts but with the Municipal Labor Coalition, a group of 152 municipal employee unions. The strategy weakened individual member union bargaining strength but the idea that providing health insurance for a much larger group benefited the smaller unions and to a lesser extent larger unions.
Mulgrew knew that in a climate of rising health costs (projected to be at 6.5% per year) and the attempts to rein in costs especially since ObamaCare (the City’s benefits could be penalized under the Cadillac provisions of the ACA, see http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/05/nyregion/health-care-law-raises-pressure-on-public-employees-unions.html?_r=0) there had to be some ingenious way to tie our raise and retro to health care benefits.
So what did he agree to? He agreed to a guarantee of nothing. We have learned through leaked memos and other sources that the projected savings (tied to a bonus nonetheless) will take care of any health care insurance inflation by combing through the rolls and deleting ineligible people (actually done last year) and using a special reserve fund (oh, I didn't think you could transfer money except in certain designated parts of the budget)
The bottom line is, like the proposed contract that wasn’t delivered to the Executive Board and the Delegate Assembly, we’re supposed to accept on faith that the savings will not cause a loss in benefits.
The FAQ even admits this in their second question and answer.
Why did the unions agree to $1.3 billion in health care savings? How can the city save on health care without decreasing my benefits?
We have been paying too much for health care. The last mayoral administration had no interest in addressing this, and the municipal unions had no motivation to work with them. Now the city and municipal unions will convene a joint citywide health care committee that will work collaboratively and transparently to identify ways to deliver health care more efficiently and streamline the administration of benefits.
We could not have made these changes with the previous administration because of the former mayor’s utter disrespect for city workers and their unions. We are confident that we will meet the savings targets set in this program. The way that you access certain benefits may change, but benefits should not decrease. (emphasis supplied)
How can you answer one question, “Yes and yes” and contradict yourself in your own spin document? Don’t approve an illusory contract. Make them go back and get contractual guarantees, not hopes.