Retired NYC municipal union employees are wrestling with a change they say could negatively affect their quality of life.
Hundreds of retired city employees converged in the shadow of National Museum of the American Indian amidst a record-breaking heatwave on June 30 to decry a mass shift to their health care plans. The Municipal Labor Committee is set to alter the Medicare plans of 250,000 individuals to a for-profit plan: Medicare Advantage.
The scores of union members were joined by family, friends, and other supporters as they brandished picket signs and banners demanding a moratorium on any change to the city’s existing Medicare plan and the ability to remain in their current Medicare Health Plan without raised costs or loss of benefits. If switched over to this for-profit plan, the primarily elderly protesters say it will significantly increase out-of-pocket costs, making those who suffer from several ailments or are severely ill pay skyrocketing prices. Additionally, those in attendance feared that the switch could reduce their network of providers.
“I’m here because I’m mad! We want our Medicare! Not privatization,” announced Julie, a DC 37 retiree who, along with the demonstrators in attendance, are fuming with the Municipal Labor Committee for attempting to transition to a privatized plan. Retirees like Julie shared that they labored all of their adult lives so that they could retire with peace of mind, something they say this transition would strip them of.
In June 2018, Mayor Bill de Blasio made a health savings agreement covering the fiscal period from 2019 to 2021, which was set to save $600,000 in health care costs for New York City employees by having a private insurance company manage the Medicare plan.
“We are going to stop the sellout of our traditional Medicare Plan to private health insurance! For a quarter of a million municipal retirees, and for hundreds of thousands of future retirees, many of whom are here today, it is a matter of life and death and for big insurance it’s just the biggest lollipop in the candy store. It will be $600 million in healthcare savings for the city, and $600,000 in healthcare cuts for us. Our union leadership must not let the city wiggle out of its responsibility to administer our traditional Medicare benefits,” said Bennett Fischer, a retired UFT member, calling Medicare Advantage a privatization scheme.
After speakers fired-up the large crowd, the group marched along Broadway, stopping at the Office of Labor Relations, Zuccotti Park, Professional Staff Congress, UFT Educational Foundation, and culminated at City Hall Park.
As they marched, retired workers began to chant, “UFT you got the power, don’t sell us out another hour.”
“We need to pause the current Medicare sellout. We need a moratorium on the MLC’s negotiation,” Fischer said, adding that the pause will allow for retirees to come up with an alternative plan that keeps healthcare in the public sphere.
amNewYork Metro reached out to Office of Labor Relations for comment and is waiting for a response.