A Manhattan judge has blocked the de Blasio administration from pushing through a controversial new health care plan for retired municipal workers before the end of the year, meaning the thorny issue will land on Mayor-elect Eric Adams’ desk once he takes office. Story from Daily News by Chris Sommerfeldt. Nov 30.
Mayor de Blasio’s administration asked Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Lyle Frank earlier in November to allow the city to set a Nov. 30 deadline for opting out of the Medicare Advantage Plus plan or be automatically enrolled in it, saying there otherwise wouldn’t be enough time for the new benefits to kick in by Jan. 1.
But in an order late Monday, Frank wrote that he could not understand why the new benefits needed to be implemented by that date.
“After reviewing the correspondence received in the last few days, I do not plan on amending my prior order at this time,” wrote Frank, who first blocked the administration from rolling out the new plan in October after a group of municipal retirees filed a lawsuit claiming it would significantly water down their health care coverage.
Frank said he will keep the issue on ice at least through Dec. 8, when the parties are supposed to convene for a hearing.
Based on the previous time line offered by the administration, Frank’s order means the new plan cannot take effect by Jan. 1 — the day Adams will be sworn in as de Blasio’s successor.
As a result, Adams will have the ability to pause or alter any potential de Blasio proposal that gets the green light from Frank before then.
The de Blasio administration has contended that the new Medicare plan would save city taxpayers $500 million a year because it can be bankrolled by federal dollars to a larger extent. The administration also maintains that health care coverage will remain as rigorous as under the city’s old Medicare plan, which retirees can also opt to keep, though that would cost them an extra $191 a month.
But the coalition of municipal retirees who brought the issue to court say that the new plan could result in them losing access to certain services and medical procedures.
The coalition also argues that enrollment guides sent out to the city’s roughly 250,000 municipal retirees are marred with factual errors and that the court must thereby slam the brakes on implementation until there’s a clearer picture of what the new plan will and will not do.
Steve Cohen, an attorney representing the plaintiff retirees, said the administration’s bid to rush the plan appears aimed at boosting de Blasio politically.
“De Blasio is seriously considering running for governor, and he wants to be able to say he got the city to save $500 million a year — I get it,” Cohen told the Daily News on Tuesday. “But he can’t do it on the backs of seniors, and he’s just rushing to get it done before he leaves office. It’s crazy. So many things are wrong about what they’re doing and trying to do.”
Laura Feyer, a City Hall spokeswoman, would not comment on Frank’s latest ruling, but reiterated that the administration believes its proposal “provides superior benefits for retirees while saving the system hundreds of millions of dollars.”
“We are working towards a resolution and will keep retirees notified of any changes,” Feyer said.
Adams hasn’t committed one way or another to what he will do as mayor about the Medicare matter, though he recently expressed sympathy with concerned retirees.
“We need to look at it and make sure it’s not a bait and switch,” Adams, himself a retired NYPD captain who’s covered by municipal health insurance, told reporters in October. “I’m a retiree, I get retiree benefits. Their plan is my plan. We want to make sure that it is a fair plan. Nothing is more frightening for a retiree than health care.”