Labor Spotlight: A Q&A with Robert Linn

Labor Spotlight: A Q&A with Robert Linn

Labor Spotlight: A Q&A with Robert Linn
September 2, 2015

City & State: The Citizens Budget Commission and the Manhattan Institute have expressed concerns about how municipal contracts rely on health care savings concessions and described this as unpredictable or unstable. How would you respond to these concerns?

Robert Linn: The unprecedented agreement reached with the Municipal Labor Committee last year marked a significant and positive shift, for the first time bringing the city and labor together to work to bend the health care cost curve. The $3.4 billion in savings – and $1.3 billion every year after – are not just guaranteed by the agreement, but enforceable by arbitration.

Since reaching the agreement, we’ve been working collaboratively with the Municipal Labor Committee, meeting our fiscal year 2015 target of $400 million in savings and putting us on the path to achieve even more this fiscal year and beyond.

C&S: What sorts of actions and initiatives seem likely to be included in the health cost savings required next year?

RL: We are on track to meet our full fiscal year 2016 savings target of $700 million and continue to grow savings on an annual basis to achieve a total of $3.4 billion through fiscal year 2019 and $1.3 billion recurring every year. In particular, we’ve detailed a number of new programs and initiatives to bend the health care cost curve, including reducing emergency room visits, expanding care management to include outpatient authorization, implementing diabetes programs, increasing incentives for opting out of the city’s health plan for employees with other coverage, expanding utilization of the 24-hour nurse line, expanding our flu shot program, and additional innovative approaches.

C&S: With most major municipal contracts settled, what does that free you up to do?

RL: We are incredibly proud of the work the de Blasio administration has done to bring 83 percent of the workforce under contract. We are also implementing the mayor’s commitment to provide employees at nonprofits contracted by the city with a living wage and cost of living increase.

The broader goal of our work is to change the dialogue between city and labor from one of confrontation and deadlock to one of collaboration and problem solving. We’ve made dramatic strides forward, and New Yorkers – from employees to taxpayers – are seeing the great results. 

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