Retired New York workers sue to block ‘inferior’ health insurance plan

A group of nearly 4,000 former officials, including firefighters, police, teachers and paramedics, said the city was stiffening them on their health insurance – forcing them to sign up for a new plan that costs more for less of benefits, according to new court documents.

Under the new Medicare supplement plan, called Alliance Medicare Advantage, retired heroes in the city will be required to pay a $ 15 co-payment for many routine services, including specialist visits, blood tests. diagnosis and travel to emergency care, according to the Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit. Sunday.

Currently, no co-payment is required.

In addition, not all doctors must agree to the plan and patients will need pre-authorization for procedures that “can cause significant delays in tests or medical procedures,” potentially putting their health at risk, according to the lawsuit. .

The health plan, which will come into force on January 1, has also been negotiated discreetly between the city and the municipal labor committee – “a purely consultative group” by which retirees “are not represented”, says the file.

The two sides “have engaged in a masquerade of ‘negotiation'” to reach a deal that has affected some 250,000 retired government workers without their consultation, according to the complaint.

And once the plan was finalized – without a public hearing being held – it was not announced on the Labor Relations Office website until July 14, where it would not be widely disseminated, according to the prosecution.

The city “has no right to impose significantly reduced benefits on people who have been retired for a long time and who have depended on vested benefits which have been negotiated under [Collective Bargaining Agreements] who were in place when they retired, ”he accuses.

Marianne Pizzitola said the city is removing a safety net from former city employees.

The deal technically allows former officials to opt out of the new plan by October, but staying on their current plan will cost them, according to the filing notes.

In addition to taxing the same co-payments as the new plan, retired municipal workers will also have to shell out nearly $ 200 more per month if they choose to keep their current coverage, according to court documents.

Supplemental insurance, called Medigap, covers the 20 percent that Medicare does not cover. Subsidized coverage costs the city more than $ 500 million per year.

“Naturally, the City wants to reduce its health costs. But it can’t do it by passing those expenses on to retirees, ”the lawsuit said.

Marianne Pizzitola, president of the Civil Service Retirees Organization, Inc., the group that sues the city, said she was removing “the most critical safety nets” from thousands of elderly former city workers and the disabled – many of whom now live on fixed incomes.

Lawyer for the prosecution, Steve Cohen of the law firm Pollock Cohen LLP, said: “It is important to note that the obligation to pay for this insurance is not only established by law… but is built into the law. Most of the collective agreements the City has made for decades. “

Nick Paolucci, spokesperson for the city’s legal department, said: “The city is committed to selecting providers who are in the best interests of the city and its retirees.

“We will look into the case. “

A spokesperson for the Labor Relations Office referred his comments to the Legal Department.

Meanwhile, on Friday, around 100 retirees held a death press conference at town hall where they disguised themselves as Grim Reaper and mimicked suffocation to protest the plan.

Sarah Shapiro, a retired teacher from the Cross Union Retirees Organizing Committee, said they were being thrown “under the bus after decades of service in this city.”

“We are in the midst of a pandemic. We have fragile and sick retirees who are in the midst of cancer treatment, ”she said.

Earlier this month, Aetna – the city’s largest private Medicare administrator – sued the $ 34 billion Alliance plan, calling it a “flawed” contract that was awarded to its unqualified competitor over the course of ‘a fixed tendering process.

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