For greater than half a century, New York Metropolis has saved a covenant with its staff: your wages will likely be modest — decrease than these of your counterparts within the suburbs or the non-public sector — however as a full-time worker you may be entitled to well being care protection with out paying premiums. For those who retire with sufficient years of service, you may be assured Medicare protection, with town choosing up the 20% Medicare doesn’t pay.
By means of the years, town has added copays and deductibles, whittling away the worth of the protection. However the fundamental settlement has lasted via main recessions and town’s catastrophic funds losses after 9/11. Till now.
In the present day, the Metropolis Council will maintain a listening to on a proposal that will break the compact. The proposal to amend town’s administrative code would legalize degradation of retiree well being advantages and allow negotiations about energetic worker advantages that will diminish protection.
Councilmembers who assist the modification could consider they haven’t any selection. In the event that they refuse to amend the legislation, the argument goes, metropolis retirees will likely be pushed off Medicare into a personal Medicare Benefit plan. Conventional Medicare and the present supplemental plan will now not be out there, even for these keen to pay.
That argument is stuffed with holes. With out altering the legislation, town may merely add a personal Medicare Benefit plan and proceed to supply the present Medicare and supplemental protection — premium-free. However the Adams administration has made “well being financial savings” a requirement for wage bargaining and seems dedicated to charging premiums for protection that has traditionally been free.
Most metropolis retirees can’t afford the so-called “selection” to pay for a supplemental plan. The typical pension from the most important metropolis retirement system is $26,596. Shopping for out of the brand new Medicare Benefit plan will price $2,400 a 12 months, $4,800 for a pair.
Consequently, retirees from higher-paid metropolis jobs could have entry to a Medicare supplemental plan that permits them to get all of the medical care they want, whereas the vast majority of metropolis retirees — lots of whom are girls and folks of shade — will likely be left with a for-profit Medicare Benefit plan that saves town cash by controlling entry to care. Generations of staff and their unions have fought for the precept that each one metropolis staff, no matter race, gender, revenue, or job title, ought to have entry to the identical well being protection. If the Council votes to alter the legislation, that precept is betrayed.
The fallacy of the proposal earlier than the Council is that it dangers the well being of hundreds of older New Yorkers and erodes a bedrock proper to well being care — but nonetheless fails to grapple with the actual sources of spiraling prices. Even when the Medicare Benefit plan have been carried out as we speak, New York would discover itself proper again in the identical well being care disaster in just a few years. The basic downside is that this nation lacks common well being care, however even inside the present system, NYC is paying an excessive amount of. Town has not successfully used the leverage of the 1.25 million individuals whose well being care it covers to attain honest hospital and drug pricing.
A greater answer is inside attain. Our union, the Skilled Employees Congress/CUNY, has proposed an method that each addresses the necessity for quick reduction and creates a framework for fixing the underlying downside. The PSC proposes Council motion that will:
Hold premium-free Senior Care in place together with conventional Medicare whereas shopping for time to develop a sustainable answer. Town can tackle the quick disaster whereas sustaining advantages over three years by redirecting funding to present advantages as an alternative of constant to construct reserves within the Retiree Health Benefits Trust.
Create a stakeholders’ fee charged with discovering a path, earlier than the non permanent funding is depleted, to decreasing hospital costs The Council ought to appoint a fee of elected officers, leaders and members of the Municipal Labor Committee (MLC), representatives of hospitals and hospital staff, well being suppliers, insurance coverage firms, and elected retiree representatives.
Finish town’s reliance on unstable and outdated funding mechanisms and rethink how town pays for medical health insurance.
Affirm the fitting of the MLC to discount about medical health insurance.
As a well being coverage professor and a former union president, we’re not naïve about what it’s going to take both to design or to implement a brand new well being care construction. However New York Metropolis can do higher than sacrificing probably the most susceptible whereas leaving the elemental downside unsolved.
Bowen, PSC president from 2000 to 2021, is professor of English at Queens Faculty and the CUNY Graduate Middle. Caress, a PSC member, is a well being care marketing consultant who teaches well being coverage at Baruch Faculty.