We need real health care change, but not Advantage


In 2007, I began my career as a New York City public school special education teacher right here in the Bronx.

When I took the job, I was told that while my friends in the private sector may earn more money now, I would have financial security in retirement in the form of a pension, and health care in the form of a Medicare supplement.

The city is now trying to break that promise by switching municipal retirees to a Medicare Advantage plan.

I am vehemently opposed to moving retirees to Medicare Advantage.

The promise that was made to me was the same promise made to hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers — and that promise should be kept.

One of the reasons given by the city to switch retiree health care to Medicare Advantage is the “cost savings.” This plan would “save” $600 million in the first year of the plan for the city’s budget.

The city is dealing with increasing health care costs, and the federal government will cover more of these costs in a Medicare Advantage plan.

I do not, however, believe that the city’s budget should be balanced on the backs of our retirees — especially after they worked for decades to secure that health care.

In addition, the New York City Organization of Public Service Retirees has said they have found $300 million in savings without switching to Medicare Advantage. These savings should be looked at before relying on a switch to Medicare Advantage.

The city states that this would be a premium-free plan and that senior citizens would not pay more money for health care by participating in this plan. However, seniors could be paying more in the form of a change in the quality of care.

Retirees that have contacted my office are concerned about two main issues: Their doctor may not participate in the new Medicare Advantage plan, and Medicare Advantage plans require prior authorization, which their current plan does not.

A senior who needs medical treatment should not have to worry about whether they will be able to see their own doctor, or whether a private insurance company will allow them to have a procedure that their doctor ordered.

At the Jan. 4 charter meeting, at the request of the mayor, a bill was introduced to amend the administrative code, which will impact what health care plan a retiree is entitled to, and what options are available to them.

The next step in the process is to hold a hearing, which was scheduled to take place Jan. 9, where council members are expected to hear testimony from administration and witnesses from across the city, as well as ask questions of those testifying.

The issue of retiree health insurance is also about the astronomical cost of health care. While I support both the New York Health Act in the state, and Medicare for All as a national program, these two bills seem far from passing.

We in the city council are working to address spending on health care in a way that does not diminish service.

As such, I am a sponsor of Intro 0844, which would create an Office of Healthcare Accountability.

This office would be empowered to audit city expenditures on employee-related health care costs, and would create a publicly accessible website that provides information on the costs of hospital procedures and summarizes the cost transparency of each hospital.

It would also report on the factors external to hospitals such as the operating and profit margin of major insurance providers.

I will continue to fight for our seniors so that the promises made to them — and to future retirees — will be kept. And I will work toward systemic solutions to problems like health care costs.

The author is the city councilman representing the greater Riverdale area of the Bronx