As a PSC member, I am attending the Zoom meeting with President James Davis and others on the proposal for city employee retiree healthcare being moved from traditional Medicare to Medicare Advantage (privately administered Medicare).
President James Davis and others including the Welfare Fund Director, the Retiree Chapter Leader, and Past President Barbara Bowen gave their views and educated us on the MLC vote tomorrow.
PSC will ask for a postponement on the Municipal Labor Committee vote scheduled only a few days after the proposal was agreed to. If that fails, PSC will vote no at the MLC meeting scheduled for tomorrow. They surprisingly stated that the unions have not even seen the proposed five-year contract so nobody knows the final details of what actually is in this proposal.
PSC expects there to be some other no-votes among city unions. MLC votes are weighted. The two biggest unions are the UFT and DC 37 so this proposal will almost certainly go through. The PSC criticized the UFT for having us pay for raises through savings on healthcare. Past President Bowen reasoned that the UFT and DC 37 want to keep premium-free healthcare and saw the Medicare Advantage way as the best way to do it. She then stated there will be an opt-out option but nobody knows the cost of opting out as of now.
There are two main reasons to vote no according to the PSC. First, this is a step backward in the fight to win universal healthcare in the United States, the only industrialized country that does not have this right.
Second, PSC reps don't know what the exact details of the Medicare Advantage contract are. We are huge city unions that represent around 1 million New Yorkers when families are counted in so we could mobilize to force the city to tax the wealthy properly. Unions are essentially letting the city off the hook by allowing them to shift cost savings to members rather than going after the health insurance companies and their price gouging. We are expecting the austerity mindset.
MLC asserts it will be improved coverage with no premiums. They assert that any doctor who takes Medicare will take this Medicare Advantage plan but we haven't seen the contract where this is in writing.
This is a national extended coverage PPO so it will be available outside of NYC and internationally. PSC has been told in writing that it will be as good or better internationally than what we have now. Retirees under 65 will stay with split coverage.
HIP-GHI-Blue Cross (Alliance) says it will pay the same fees as Medicare gives for doctors. The city emphasizes that the coverage should be exactly the same as retirees are getting now. There shouldn't be mandatory referrals to see specialists. Doctors within hospitals have to be consulted on whether they will be accepting Medicare Advantage.
Prior approval for tests shouldn't be needed as it is still Medicare. We will comb through the contract to see if it will be necessary. Barbara Bowen adds after the Welfare Director says this that there may be pre-authorizations needed. Doctors need to know what the new plan is. It is different from other Medicare Advantage plans.