What's Happening to Retiree Healthcare

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NYC is changing retiree healthcare benefits. Municipal retirees (including CUNY) must decide by October 31 on their changing healthcare coverage.
For most PSC retirees, it means one of two options: (1) Moving into a premium free Medicare Advantage plan or (2) Staying in their NYC current plan, but paying a premium for supplemental insurance.

The web page is organized into five parts:

WHAT RETIREES NEED TO KNOW TO MAKE A DECISION | HOW THIS HAPPENED | PSC RESPONSE | ADVOCATING FOR MEMBERS HEALTHCARE | KEY LINKS

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TO MAKE A DECISION

TO GET YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED TAKE THESE STEPS IN ORDER

  1. Check NYC OLR FAQs;
  2. If still no answers, call the Alliance toll free number at 1-833-325-1190, Monday to Friday, 8 am to 9 pm;
  3. If still no answers, check the PSC/CUNY Welfare Fund FAQS;
  4. And if still no answers, only then send an email to communications@psccunywf.org (this is the email your questions should be routed to, not the retiree chapter email address).

CHECKLIST FOR CHOOSING YOUR 2022 HEALTHCARE PLAN

We have created the first iteration of a checklist for the enrollment process HERE. We will update it as we receive more information and get unanswered questions answered.

CHAPTER MEETINGS AND INFORMATION SESSIONS ON RETIREE HEALTHCARE (VIDEOS)

FAQS FROM QUESTIONS ASKED AT CHAPTER AND INFORMATION MEETINGS


ENROLLMENT GUIDES

The New York City Office of Labor Relations (OLR) has changed the opt out and enrollment dates to September 15 – October 31 from the original 9/1 to 10/15 dates. It has published online two enrollment guides:

  1. An enrollment guide "intended for retirees currently on the GHI/Empire BlueCross BlueShield Senior Care plan. This guide was mailed to retirees' homes in early and mid-September.
  2. An enrollment guide intended for members of health plans other than Senior Care (i.e., Aetna, Cigna, Elderplan, Empire, HIP VIP, United HealthCare). OLR only began mailing the enrollment guide "intended for members of health plans other than Senior Care" in late September.

OPT OUT FORMS

By default, you will be enrolled in the Alliance Medicare Advantage plan. If you want to stay on traditional Medicare, you will have to complete an opt out form: If your spouse is on your coverage, BOTH of you will need to submit an opt out form.

  1. Opt-out Form for current Senior Care members.
  2. Opt-out form for current non-senior Care members.

If you wish to cease your City of New York retiree health coverage altogether, complete the NYC Health Benefits Application/Change Form available on the Health Benefits Program website at: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/olr/health/retiree/health-retiree-forms-and-downloads.page. Please be advised, you will NOT be eligible for the reimbursement by the City of the Medicare Part B premium if you cease City of New York retiree health coverage. You may, however, reenroll in City retiree health benefits during the next Transfer Period.

OPT-OUT CONFIRMATIONS

In response to a question raised about this, the Alliance said.

All members will receive an opt out confirmation letter. All members that have already opted out will be sent a letter and going forward we will mail opt out confirmation letters on a weekly basis. Confirmations will not be sent via email. However, if members use the secure site to opt out electronically, they will see a message immediately stating your opt out has been successfully submitted. Members can confirm their opt out with a customer service rep as well [1-833-325-1190].

OPT OUT PAYMENTS

If you opt out and end up paying a monthly premium (e.g. $191 plus for NY Senior Care), payments will be deducted from your monthly pension check. The process is relatively straightforward for those in TRS. The premium will deducted from you monthly pension benefit. If you are in TIAA, the process is more problematic. You should check with TIAA to find out whether your annuity is large enough to pay the premium. If it is not, you should be prepared to be direct billed. We don’t know yet if that can be by automatic debit. We are making inquiries to both OLR and Emblem about automatic debit. Once we get confirmed information, we will post it here.

For context and background to this issue, those in TIAA should read the article (pp. 6-8) by Bonnie Nelson in the October retiree newsletter -- "TIAA, CUNY AND THE MOVE TO MEDICARE ADVANTAGE." The October issue of Turning the Page is available here.

NYC RETIREE HEALTH RATE CHARTS EFFECTIVE JANUARY 1, 2022

If you opt out of the Alliance Medicare Advantage plan in order to continue with your current NYC health care plan, you will have to pay a monthly premium (except for HIP VIP and Aetna NY/NJ/PA which are premium free). Click here to see the rates on the NYC Office of Labor Relations (OLR) website. Note that you will NOT be paying for prescription drug coverage since that is already covered by the PSC CUNY Welfare Fund.

NYC OFFICE OF LABOR RELATIONS ON RETIREE HEALTHCARE BENEFITS

MEDICARE PART B AND IRMAA REIMBURSEMENTS

You will only be eligible for Medicare Part B (and if you qualify, IRMAA) reimbursements from NYC if you are in the Alliance Medicare Advantage plan or if you opt out and continue on your present NYC health plan. (If you are not familiar with the NYC Medicare Part B and IRMAA reimbursement policy, you can read about it in this primer that we have prepared on the subject.)

PSC JULY MAILING TO RETIREES

Letter from James Davis to Retirees on Healthcare Options

CORRECT MAILING ADDRESS

Take action now to be sure that the NYC Employee Benefits Program has your correct mailing address, particularly if you did not receive a Medicare “Notice of Change” letter from NYC last summer. The form to submit to the NYC Employee Benefits Program is here. Have you ben receiving mailings from the PSC and the Welfare Fund. If not, make sure both the PSC and the Welfare Fund have your correct address by entering your name and correct mailing address and mailing it to the PSC-CUNY Welfare Fund at 61 Broadway, 15th floor, New York, NY 10006.

365 DAY HOSPITAL RIDER.

This is automatically included in the Alliance Medicare Advantage Plan. However, if you opt out and pay the premium to continue in GHI/Empire Senior Care and presently have the rider, it will be grandfathered in for next year at a cost of $2.83 a month. To find out if you presently have the rider, call the Emblem Customer Service number at 212-501-4444. If you do not have the rider, and you are opting out to continue in GHI/Empire Senior Care, you can sign up for the rider during the November transfer period. The OLR is creating a special sign up form for the rider. Once it is posted, we will provide a link to it.

NAVIGATING RETIREE HEALTHCARE INSURANCE

NavigatingRetireeHealthcare.jpegThere is an excellent article in the October Clarion by Deborah Bell on "Navigating Retiree Healthcare Insurance." All members should receive a hard copy in the mail. Read it online here.

YOUR CHOICE IS NOT WRITTEN IN STONE

Whatever your choice -- Medicare Advantage or staying with a traditional Medicare plan -- your choice is not irrevocable. Every fall (October or November) there will be a transfer period so retirees can change plans, from MA+ to Senior Care or from Senior Care to MA+, for the following year. Retirees currently enrolled in another supplemental plan who enroll in MA+ for 2022 will be able to switch back to the old plan only next year, for 2023. In addition, you may use your “Once in A Lifetime” option (you must be retired one year to use this option) at any time to change your health plan.

WILL YOUR DOCTORS AND MEDICAL PROVIDERS ACCEPT THE NYC MEDICARE ADVANTAGE PLUS PLAN?

Retirees are getting conflicting answers from their providers. Here is an information sheet that the Empire/Alliance shares with doctors and medical providers.

LAWSUITS.

There are three lawsuits presently in the courts seeking injunctive relief to stop implementation of the NYC retiree healthcare changes. Two of the suits are by losing bidders for the Medicare Advantage contract – United Health Care and Aetna. A third, filed by the NYC Organization of Public Service Retirees, represents municipal retirees. Over 7,000 city retirees have joined its Facebook page, including PSC retirees. All three lawsuits, while not combined, are before the same judge. Two will be before the court this Wednesday, October 20 – Aetna and the NYC Organization of Public Service Retirees. The latter has created a website at http://www.nycretirees.org/, where you can sign up for an email newsletter. The web page has information on how to make a monetary contribution to the lawsuit, which many PSC retirees have done. You can access the court documents filed by the group here.

NOTE: The deadline for retirees choosing options on NYC healthcare insurance is still October 31. If anything changes, we will post an update on this page.t.

HEARING ON CHANGES TO MUNICIPAL WORKERS RETIREE HEALTH PLANS,

The City Council Committee on Civil Service and Labor, is holding a hearing on Thursday, October 28th at 1pm. This is an in-person hearing at City Hall.

We need to tell our stories and make our voices heard.

If you wish to testify in-person, you can register upon arrival in Council Chambers at City Hall. Testimony should be approximately 2 minutes. Bring twenty (20) copies, double-sided of your written testimony to the hearing. Note that the hearing will adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols including wearing masks and social distancing. As a result, particularly if lots of people testify in person, there may be long waits and lines both inside and outside City Hall as seating in the hearing room will be limited.

If you cannot come in person, and wish to testify, "you can provide written testimony up to 72 hours after the hearing takes place. You can email your written testimony to: testimony@council.nyc.gov.”

The PSC will testify.

MLC VOTES TO MOVE RETIREE HEALTHCARE TO MEDICARE ADVANTAGE

On Wednesday, July 14, the Municipal Labor Committee (MLC) voted to approve a contract with the NYC Office of Labor Relations (OLR) to move city retirees, including CUNY retirees, from traditional Medicare with supplemental city insurance to a privatized Medicare Advantage plan. The transition would take effect on January 1, 2022. The PSC cast a "NO" vote.

The Medicare Advantage vendor is Alliance, a partnership of Empire BlueCross BlueShield and Emblem Health.

Members can choose to go into the Medicare Advantage plan or stay with traditional Medicare but would have to pay for their own suplementary insurance. Retirees 65 years and older will automatically be enrolled in the new Medicare Advantage Plus program effective January 1, 2022, unless they affirmatively opt out. The retiree chapter, to put it charitably, is most unhappy that the City and MLC chose that the default for Medicare eligible retirees would be automatic enrollment in the Medicare Advantage plan.

You can choose to remain on your current NYC plan by opting out of the NYC Medicare Advantage Plus plan during the opt-out period between September 15 – October 31, but you will have to pay a premium to stay on one of the current NYC plans. For retirees who opt out and wish to stay on the GHI/Empire BlueCross BlueShield Senior Care Medigap plan, you will pay $191.57 a month per person and the plan will have co-pays (plus an additional $2.83 a month if you purchase the 365 day hospital rider). Premiums for other plans are on the OLR website here.

The City will continue to reimburse for Medicare Part B and IRMAA ONLY IF:

  • One signs up for the Alliance Medicare Advantage plan;
  • OR, one chooses to enroll in and pay premiums for one of the City's health plans, including the current senior care (with a premium of $191.57 per month per person).

On Tuesday, July 27, the PSC set up the first of meeting with the vendor, Alliance, where members had the opportunity to ask questions. Here is a video of that meeting. A follow-up information meeting took place on August 30. Here is a video of that meeting. Subsequently, the Retirees Chapter held information sessions, videos of which you can find here.

retireehealthcare03.jpgPSC RESPONSE. For several months, the PSC raised serious concerns about the closed nature of the process, urging more transparency from the MLC and calling on it to seek savings through alternative means, such as working with other unions to contain skyrocketing hospital costs.

At its April 15th meeting, by unanimous vote, the PSC Delegate Assembly supported a call for a moratorium on negotiations about the change to a Medicare Advantage plan until PSC members have the information necessary to assess the matter.

The union urged the MLC to ensure sufficient time for members to review any proposal before representatives vote on it and promised to schedule an online forum for PSC members when information was made available about any Medicare Advantage plan the MLC is considering for approval. That forum, with close to 800 people attending, took place on Tuesday, July 13. (A video of the forum is available here.)

Before the forum, PSC President James Davis stated:

“The MLC’s vote on approval is being held just six days after the proposal was made available to leaders of the MLC unions, an inadequate review period. The PSC would like to hear in advance of Wednesday’s vote from interested members of our bargaining unit – current or future retirees – about the proposed Medicare Advantage Plan, a group plan developed by Emblem/GHI/Anthem. We have been asking many questions of the MLC, and we’re sure you will have your own. Information provided by the MLC is available here: Intro, Strategic plan, Comparison.”

Meanwhile, the PSC put out a press release on Monday, July 12 entitled PSC Call for Postponement of Upcoming Municipal Labor Committee Vote on Changes to Retiree Health Insurance. Click here to read it.

The press release quotes PSC President James Davis making the case to postpone the MLC vote:

“Our members are deeply troubled by the MLC’s rush to vote on this proposal. Five days is not enough time to consult on such a consequential decision. Although the MLC agreed to work with the City on healthcare savings measures in 2015 and 2018, this vote to seek savings through the retiree medical plan comes at a time when the City can well afford to pursue alternatives. This austerity measure opens the door to further cost-cutting and diminished benefits in future contracts."

“We are concerned by the closed nature of the negotiations. Municipal retirees should have a chance to review the agreement and engage with their representatives to the MLC before a vote. MLC unions have not been provided with a copy of the contract with the proposed vendor."

The PSC's motion to postpone was defeated.

Subsequently, three healthcare unions (Committee of Interns and Residents, Doctors' Council and New York State Nurses Association) voted "no" on the Medicare Advantage motion together with the PSC and a fifth union, the Sergreants Benevolent Association. The vote was weighted by union memberdship, but even without a weighted ballot, it would have carried by a large margin.

ADVOCATING FOR MEMBERS' HEALTHCARE:

Together, with thousands of other municipal retirees, we delayed the MLC vote and undoubtedly influenced the proposed Medicare Advantage plan. But we did NOT stop it. Our voices on this still need to be heard. Below is a record of the retirees chapter advocacy work on this issue from March through the summer.

THE PETITION. PSC retirees worked with the Council of Municipal Retiree Organizations (COMRO) on mobilizing municipal retirees in response to the move to Medicare Advantage. COMRO has an online petition addressed to the mayor and the MLC entitled “Preserve Medicare Part B for NYC Retirees.” The petition has generated over 26,000 signatures. The more signatures gathered, the stronger the impact. Actives ("retirees in training") as well as retirees need to endorse this petition. To view the petition and add your name, click here.

retireehealthcare06.jpg
June 30 March and Rally. On the hottest day of the year, PSC retirees and future retirees joined retirees and future retirees from across the municipal workforce for a rally at Bowling Green and march to City Hall. Several hundred marched, including a few with canes and walkers -- "summer soldiers" in blistering heat demanding that the MLC and OLR call for a moratorium in negotiations, make their deliberations transparent and listen to the voices of the 250,000 municipal retirees affected. There were stops at unions along the march route (UFT and PSC) and the NYC Office of Labor Relations Two PSC retirees were among the speakers -- Eileen Moran and Nancy Romer. Here is a short video of the march and rally.
retireehealthcare04_0.jpg

FORUM: THURSDAY, JUNE 17. City to Retirees: Private Health Care ─ Take It or Leave It! More than 650 people attended this webinar. The NY Metro Chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) presented a program examining the proposed move of municipal retirees from traditional Medicare to a private, for profit, Medicare Advantage Plan. The forum reached out to municipal retirees, but it also took the story to a much wider audience. There was analysis by health care professionals and economists and a report on pushback by NYC retirees. PSC retirees playd a prominent role in the program.

There was also a roadmap presented of future actions and pushback against NYC/MLC proposed healthcare moves. Here is a link to a video of the forum:
https://vimeo.com/565806450

FORUM: THURSDAY, JUNE 24. How Do We Stop the Move of Municipal Retirees to Medicare Advantage?
More than 600 attendees participated in a meeting on Thursday, June 24 via Zoom. Panelists representing a cross-section of NYC retirees and unions discussed actions we can take in opposition to the proposed move of municipal retirees from traditional Medicare to a private, for-profit, Medicare Advantage Plan. There was a robust question and answer period with lots of suggestions about how we can push back. The webinar was hosted by the NY StateWide Senior Action Council. Once again, PSC retirees played an important role in the program.

TWO NEWSLETTERS WITH REPORTING AND ANALYSIS ON THE ISSUE: Check out the April and May isuess of our newsletter, Turning The Page:

TWO CHAPTER MEETINGS ON THIS ISSUE: The chapter devoted two meetings to the MLC proposal to move retiree healthcare to Medical Advantage and our response. Both meetings were recorded. Click below to see the Videos:

THE APRIL 5TH MEEETING: 320 retirees attended. We invited two key people to discuss this and answer questions: PSC President Barbara Bowen, who is on the MLC Steering Committee, and Donna Costa, Executive Director of the PSC/CUNY Welfare Fund and a member of an MLC committee assessing the two Medicare Advantage finalists for an RFP issued by the city. Len Rodberg, Professor Emeritus from Queens College, a prominent advocate for single-payer healthcare and a PSC retiree, presented a brief history of Medicare Advantage as a privatized, for profit version of Medicare (which of course raises lots of questions.) Click HERE for a PDF of the PowerPoint slides Prof. Rodberg used in his presentation.

There is a full recording of the Zoom meeting. Click HERE for the link.

At the beginning of the meeting, a statement of urgent concern, unanimously endorsed by the Retiree Chapter Executive Committee, was read. It is available here.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the body passed the following resolution (93.5% to 6.5%):

As a matter of urgent concern, the Retiree Chapter of the Professional Staff Congress requests that the PSC seek a moratorium on any agreement between NYC and the Municipal Labor Committee to move retiree healthcare coverage from Medicare/Senior Care to Medicare Advantage.

Municipal retirees affected by the proposed changes to retiree coverage have not been provided adequate and timely information nor have they had opportunities to discuss and debate the controversies around Medicare Advantage plans, the personal effects of such a change and its policy implications.

On April 15th, The Delegate Assembly, the principal governing body of the Professional Staff Congress, voted unanimously (115 to 0) to support the chapter's call for a moratorium on consideration by NYC and MLC of any agreement to move retiree healthcare to a Medicare Advantage program.

(Click HERE for a list of possible actions we can take to push for a moratorium.)

THE MAY 3RD MEETING: The second half of this meeting, from 2 – 3:30 pm, focused on updates on the NYC/MLC negotiations on retirement health insurance and the organized response to these moves. There was a discussion of possible actions. The meeting was recorded. Click here for a video.

FACEBOOK PAGE: A group of municipal retirees has set up a Facebook group -- "Preserve Medicare Parts A and B for NYC Retirees (PTPM)." You can access it here.

NYC ORGANIZATION OF PUBLIC SERVICE RETIREES (FOR BENEFIT PRESERVATION), a group of municipal retirees, has filed a lawsuit to reverse NYC's healthcare changes for its retirees. You can find out more about the group and the lawsuit here on its Facebook page. To pay its legal costs, the group seeks to raise $50,000 (and is 2/3rds of the way there). To contribute, click here. But if you don't have Facebook, you can go to a website it has created at http://www.nycretirees.org/. There you can sign up for an email newsletter. The web page has information on how to make a monetary contribution to the lawsuit, which many PSC retirees have done. You can access the court documents filed by the group here.

SEPTEMBER 24 DIE-IN: This was a street theater event on Friday, September 24th at City Hall to protest the NYC move of retiree healthcare from traditional Medicare to a privatized, for profit Medicare Advantage Plan. Click here for a shorrt video of the event.

KEY LINKS:

Go back to the retirees main page