To the editor:
Both DC37 and the United Federation of Teachers are urging their members to contact the city council to amend the city’s administrative code. The proposed amendment, which does not yet have a sponsor, would weaken health insurance protections for both municipal retirees and in-service employees.
The proposed administrative code change means that the only premium-free retiree plan would be Medicare Advantage, and the current Medicare/Senior Care plan will cost individuals at least $200 each month if it is allowed to continue as an option. In addition, it would also allow the city to renegotiate the “benchmark” reimbursement rate for everyone, and place employees into different “classes” to diminish benefits, further undermining the equal treatment of health benefits that current and retired employees currently have.
Tens of thousands of retirees on original Medicare oppose the reductions in health coverage through the privatization of Medicare for retirees, and for in-service employees by other means. Retirees who opt to remain in traditional Medicare should not be forced to pay monthly premiums.
We oppose the administration’s current attempt to amend the city administrative code to eliminate its long-standing guarantee of fully paid quality health care benefits for in-service employees and retirees.
There are alternative approaches to managing the city’s rising health care costs that should be considered. Savings could be achieved through measures such as negotiating with the hospitals for a more equitable reimbursement rate, addressing the skyrocketing costs of prescription drugs, and auditing current insurance providers. The burden should not fall on workers, retirees and their dependents.
The unions and the city worked in good faith during past financial crises in 1975, 1991 and 2008 to preserve benefits for all current employees and retirees. The current attack on our benefits needs to end, and the parties need to develop a Plan B that will address the financial realities and preserve our health care.
A special panel composed of retirees with management and labor backgrounds, the comptroller, other city officials and city council members would go a long way toward achieving savings without diminishing health benefits and still provide a choice of plans.
Retirees are ready, willing and able to meet with the city and those involved to help develop the plan.
The author is chair of the Council of Municipal Retiree Organizations, and president emeritus of the NYC Managerial Employees Association