The Chief, Editor’s Note: For the Record. Jan 28, 2022
Darrell Sims, who was sworn in as president of the Managerial Employees Association Jan. 1, is calling for retirees to be included in discussions regarding the Medicare Advantage Plus program that is due to take effect April 1.
“There is a need for retirees to be at the table,” he said in a Jan. 11 statement. “We have been shut out of that discussion. It has really been the unions— which actually represent the active employees—who have been involved.”
Those unions also represent retirees who remain members after leaving the city payroll. Some retirees objecting to the new plan, however, have seized on statements made by two prominent labor leaders—United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew and Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association head Harry Nespoli, who also chairs the Municipal Labor Committee—that one reason they pursued a Medicare Advantage deal in tandem with the de Blasio administration was to reduce retiree healthcare costs that were limiting the money available for collective bargaining.
It is expected that the switch to Medicare Advantage Plus will save $600 million a year through greater efficiency in having a health-care consortium administer the program. Union and city officials have insisted that the new program will offer coverage as good as, and in some respects better than, Medicare for the 250,000 retirees.
In a November deposition after a Manhattan Supreme Court Justice postponed implementation of the program due to what he deemed lack of information offered to retirees about both program offerings and how they would be implemented, Deputy Labor Relations Commissioner Claire Levitt spelled out that case.
“The Medicare Advantage Plus plan replaces traditional Medicare and a Medicare Supplement plan with an integrated program at lower cost than the current Senior Care program and with no premium cost to the retirees,” she stated in the deposition. She noted that the unions and city officials were in the process of forming a joint committee to monitor the new plan and ensure that the consortium, known as The Alliance, lived up to its commitments.
Mr. Sims pointed out that “many retirees are unenthusiastic.” The program allows retirees to keep their current healthcare plans if they pay a monthly premium of $191.57 that he said would be unaffordable to those who were lower-paid workers and thus receive smaller pensions.
But the attorney who brought the action on behalf of retirees that led Justice Lyle Frank to delay implementation of the program, Steve Cohen, said last month that he believed the judge’s ruling had given his clients everything they were looking for. That did not mean he wouldn’t be revisiting the issue, he said, but that would happen after the program began April 1.
Because managers, with rare exceptions, are ineligible for collective bargaining, the MEA acts as an advocate on matters like salary and benefits but cannot actually negotiate on their behalf.