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NYC Retirees Mobilize to Save Their Traditional Medicare Coverage

NYC Retirees

New York City is Ground Zero in the nationwide fight against privatizing traditional Medicare coverage for retired city workers.

So far, court action by the NYC Organization of Public Service Retirees has succeeded in blocking Mayor Eric Adams’ plan to force city retirees into a for-profit Medicare Advantage plan.

Traditional Medicare offers access to a vast network of doctors and specialists across the state and country, with nearly 100% of providers participating, ensuring retirees can choose the medical professionals they trust and receive the care they need, regardless of location or specialization. 

Conversely, if former city employees lose in court and are forced into a Medicare Advantage plan, retirees would face delays and denials of treatment through prior authorization requests (often chosen by an algorithm or artificial intelligence), expensive drug plans, restrictive options to limited provider networks that force retirees to switch doctors or travel long distances for essential care, and many more disastrous effects. The city has chosen Aetna Medicare Advantage for the switch in retirees’ health-care coverage.

These public servants faithfully served to preserve New York's prosperity and the well-being of its residents. They have diligently paid into the Medicare system throughout their careers, trusting it to provide the health-care security they deserve in their golden years. Now, when they are most vulnerable, proposals to transition them from traditional Medicare to privatized Medicare Advantage plans threaten to dismantle this sacred promise.

This amounts to a stinging betrayal of retirees by Mayor Adams, who counts with the collaboration of the leadership of the municipal unions, and it sends a chilling message to current public servants about the city’s commitment to its dedicated workforce.

These public servants joined the municipal workforce earning lower pay than their private-sector counterparts for a promised modest pension and lifelong comprehensive health benefits, including Medicare and a supplemental coverage plan.

Today's city workers are overwhelmingly people of color and women who joined the city’s workforce for these benefits, and it is this group that will be disproportionately harmed if the NYC Organization of Public Service Retirees loses in court.

There are other far-reaching consequences if the retirees fail. Older adults living in continuing care residential communities are required to be covered by traditional Medicare and a Medigap plan. What will happen to them if forced into a Medicare Advantage plan?

With an awful plan, it’s no wonder why public service retirees have organized and fought against the privatization of their promised benefits. Retirees in New York City have led the fight to preserve the integrity of traditional Medicare, joining forces with retired public servants in Delaware, Connecticut, Ithaca, N.Y., Cortland, N.Y., and many other locations across the country.

And we’re just getting started.

Marianne Pizzitola is the president of the NYC Organization of Public Service Retirees, leading the court fight against the city’s plan to force retirees into Medicare Advantage. Gregory N. Heires, former Metro NY Labor Communications Council president and a former senior associate director in the Communications Dept. of District Council 37, AFSCME, serves on the coordinating committee of Labor for Traditional Medicare, whose members include retired elected union leaders, staffers, shop stewards and activists.

Read more Labor Union Special Report stories here.

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