Thursday, October 28, 2021

Mulgrew Sleazily Sells New Health Care Plan like used cars, future retirees will have no options, Unions Shouldn’t Be Helping the Health Industry

The last time I saw Unity selling something so hard, so irrationally – it was the 2005 contract. I recoiled with mistrust at the hard sell. As any thinking person might do now. ... Jonathan Halabi, former UFT Ex Bd

There's something profoundly disturbing about our opposition to the New York Health Act. We are, in effect, opposing single payer health insurance for the entire state of New York. It's not just that we're hindering something much needed, a veritable moral imperative. It's not just that we are slowing down potential progress toward ending the national disgrace that is our health system. In fact, we are doing both those things. These things alone could qualify as profoundly disturbing, but we've gone beyond that... Arthur Goldstein, Ex Bd Member

Thursday, October 28 - 8AM

This update is packed with info. 

To me Mulgrew is as criminal as Joe Manchin. Our union's backing for a privatized plan damages the entire movement towards a rational health care system and in essence takes us in the opposite direction -- which will ultimately undermine and destroy Medicare.

No matter where you stand, it is clear that the solution to our union and national health care issues is a single payer plan, which the UFT opposes. 

Arthur takes them to task in his recent blog which has gotten some excellent response from people looking to Arthur to take the leadership to task. Arthur is in his 6th year on the UFT Ex Bd, so hearing this from him counts:

UFT Must Support Single Payer and New York Health Act

Today at 1PM is City Council hearing on medicare bait and switch being pushed by UFT. -- City Council oversight hearing on Changes to Municipal Retirees' Healthcare Plan - Thursday Oct. 21 1PM - Livestream. You can go in person to attend inside or join people outside on Broadway and Murray St. But also livestream at https://council.nyc.gov/livestream.

Remember those Johnny Carson sleazy skits where he is super slick and trying to sell you something? That is how Mulgrew comes across.
 
Mulgrew told those of us against we will thank him in 3 years.
Mulgrew’s last email: 90% of hospitals will be in network
 
In earlier town halls it was 98% of doctors and hospitals. 
Try to get the 98% quote from the town hall audio and lo and be hold yhey deleted it.
 
If Mulgrew's numbers of participants keep dropping - when he hits 75% yell BULLSHIT BINGO.


Lawsuit stuff --- 

The lawyers have been telling those who opted out to rescind -- so far my wife and I are not -- because he thinks our opt out might tie us to agree to pay the extra $191 a month each starting Jan. 1 might bind us even of the judge throws the overall agreement out. I don't believe he gave any indication of that and focused on the scummy way the info was presented and insists they come back with a better presentation -- thus the opt out period will be extended -- the union has been making noises about that but with 3 days to go why expect them to tell us?
 
Here is some more info:

Steve Cohen was the lawyer for the Retiree Group and he presents advice about the TRO (Temporary Restraining Order), whether or not you already opted out and what you should do, and his opinion about future retirees.

To those friends that are still employed, Mr. Cohen predicts that future retirees will have only one plan health plan option upon retirement - a medicare advantage plan.

I urge all to listen and watch this video.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TvtGfCvME0M

Jonathan Halabi blogs with good analysis: Another Comment about the Medicare Advantage Preliminary Injunction

 Does Frank say that he is giving retirees more time to learn about Medicare Advantage Plus?

No, he says the implementation plan is irrational. He further states “if [retirees] are required to opt-in or out of a medical program by the October 31, 2021 deadline there would certainly be irreparable harm.” And he orders the Municipal Labor Coalition (including the UFT) and the City not to give retirees more time to think it over. He orders them to:

“… cure deficiencies with the implementation of the proposed new Medicare Advantage Plan… “

Honorable Lyle E Frank

In a previous blog post One Comment about the Medicare Advantage Preliminary Injunction

 Jon wrote --

Mulgrew sent out:

“Can I go to my current doctors and hospitals? Yes. The NYC Medicare Advantage Plus Plan is a Group Medicare PPO, which does not restrict access to providers.”

Municipal Labor Committee “Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About the NYC Medicare Advantage Plus Plan” (updated 8/11/21, on City of New York letterhead, with Emblem and Empire logos.)

The judge wrote:

“there is little clarity as to which health care providers will be accepting this new Medicare Advantage Plan” and “it is undisputed that much of the program terms are still unsettled and unclear.”

Honorable Lyle E Frank

It is hard to reconcile those two statements.

But before we believe that either is lying, remember that the judge is a lawyer, and Mulgrew doesn’t speak to members on big issues without talking to a lawyer first. And if lawyers wrote both of these things, then perhaps these things do not mean exactly what we think they do.

An old DA Pal, Pete S, posted this comment on the Retiree Advocate listserve:

I am a Retiree who worked at a School in Manhattan for 17 years, 8 of which I  was a Delegate.

Our so-called leadership has tried to sell us on a new health plan without ever consulting the membership before consenting to it's endorsement at the MLC. 
I believe that: 
1- a document (s) clearly comparing and contrasting the members' insurance options should be sent to every member of our union; a) then the members should directly vote on which plan should be endorsed; 
2- although we are forced to work through the Court system I believe that a discussion should take place about any other means at our disposal to force our leadership to heed the voice of the membership, to be more accountable to the membership, to dispense information more openly and honestly.
                    *           *          *
Also,  many thanks to those of Retiree Advocate and groups in the union 
who have tirelessly worked for a more democratically structured union and leadership transparency.
Finally, here is a must read article about how our union's backing for a privatized plan damages the entire movement towards a rational health care system and in essence takes us in the opposite direction -- which will ultimately undermine and destroy Medicare. To Mulgrew is as criminal as Joe Manchin.

Unions Shouldn’t Be Helping the Health Industry | Portside

https://portside.org/2021-10-20/unions-shouldnt-be-helping-health-industry

Portside Date:
Author: Julia Rok
Date of source:
Jacobin 
 

In recent years, leadership of some of the nation’s largest unions have publicly opposed single-payer health care proposals, angering their rank and file and forcing Democratic politicians who back single-payer to take on a key constituency.

In New York City, for example, the umbrella organization for the city’s public-sector unions — the Municipal Labor Committee (MLC) — recently helped the health insurance industry block a statewide single-payer bill, on the grounds that their members wanted to keep the health care benefits for which they had sacrificed wage increases.

But it turns out that the MLC, which bargains for health care benefits for city unions, was also engaging in backdoor negotiations with the city, resulting in a proposal to switch nearly a quarter million people from Medicare to privately administered Medicare Advantage plans.

The move, scheduled to go into effect on July 1, would change the annual out-of-pocket costs of those impacted from a maximum of $1,053 per year to up to $7,550. It could also force retirees to find new doctors, as many doctors don’t accept Medicare Advantage plans, and could require prior authorization for procedures, which tends to lead to high claim-denial rates.

“The unions bought into austerity politics,” said Bill Friedheim, the head of the retiree chapter of the Professional Staff Congress, which represents nearly three thousand retired New York public university professors. “Instead of pushing for new sources of revenue in the richest city in the richest state in the richest country in the history of the world, the municipal unions have become parties in managing austerity.”

Savings or Cost Shifting?

In 2018, the MLC and the New York City Office of Labor Relations came to an agreement which involved cutting the costs of union health care benefits to save the city $600 million a year by fiscal year 2021 (now 2022, delayed due to the pandemic).

Switching retirees from Medicare to Medicare Advantage was one of eight proposed measures to cut costs. Tens of thousands of retirees are calling on the MLC to issue a moratorium on the switch until the organization has conducted a detailed analysis of the impacts of the move.

Under the current system, the city spends $600 million on retiree health care annually, in addition to the $2.9 billion the federal government spends per year on Medicare for the city’s retirees. The city’s $600 million contribution funds out-of-pocket costs for expenses not covered by Medicare, as well as reimbursements for premiums for Medicare Part B, which covers outpatient care.

The MLC helped prevent a vote on the New York Health Act, a piece of single-payer legislation sponsored by a majority of lawmakers in both the state house and senate this year. New York became the second large state with a Democratic legislative supermajority to block an up-or-down vote on single-payer.

In a May 5 letter to house speaker Carl Heastie opposing the legislation, MLC chair Harry Nespoli wrote, “For over 50 years, the MLC has bargained health care matters with the City and other NYC-based employers. We are proud of the programs we have developed — which provide quality care without any contribution to premium for either actives or retirees.”

Just a few weeks before that, however, the MLC had quietly come to an agreement with the city to switch retirees to new private health plans that could drastically raise annual out-of-pocket cost maximums for those on the plans.

Retirees and active members allege that the MLC opposed single-payer in part because the unions wanted their members to associate union membership with health insurance.

Retirees fear that those cost savings will actually amount to cost shifting in the form of higher out-of-pocket costs and less coverage. While much is unknown about how the switch would affect the coverage that retirees receive, experts agree that for people who struggle with health issues, Medicare Advantage is more expensive and provides fewer choices.

That’s because the cost savings from Medicare Advantage come from both higher co-payments, essentially shifting costs from the government to individuals, and the fact that people receive less care either due to high claim denials or because they don’t seek out care in the first place, as fewer providers accept Medicare Advantage.

As Leonard Rodberg, a retired City University of New York professor who studied health policy told the Daily Poster, “If you go to the doctor, [insurers] save money, because you pay part of the cost. And if you don’t go, they save even more money. If you need a treatment, they turn you down, deny care, and save even more. There’s a variety of ways they save money, and they claim they save money by keeping you healthier, but nobody has ever been able to document what they do to keep you healthy.”

“They Want Health Care Benefits Associated With Union Leadership”

The MLC helped prevent a vote on the New York Health Act, a piece of single-payer legislation sponsored by a majority of lawmakers in both the state house and senate this year. New York became the second large state with a Democratic legislative supermajority to block an up-or-down vote on single-payer.

In a May 5 letter to house speaker Carl Heastie opposing the legislation, MLC chair Harry Nespoli wrote, “For over 50 years, the MLC has bargained health care matters with the City and other NYC-based employers. We are proud of the programs we have developed — which provide quality care without any contribution to premium for either actives or retirees.”

Just a few weeks before that, however, the MLC had quietly come to an agreement with the city to switch retirees to new private health plans that could drastically raise annual out-of-pocket cost maximums for those on the plans.

Retirees and active members allege that the MLC opposed single-payer in part because the unions wanted their members to associate union membership with health insurance.

“For a lot of these MLC unions, the one tangible thing that they provide, in addition to wages, are health care benefits, and particularly the benefits that come out of their welfare funds,” said one New York City union representative, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “They want health care benefits associated with union leadership.”

The representative added, “It doesn’t have to be true. If unions fought for more robust raises and benefits, they wouldn’t have to be concerned that the only thing they have to show for people is health care benefits.”

Rodberg, the CUNY professor, concurred. After the 2018 Supreme Court decision Janus v. AFSCME, which said that public employees can’t be required to pay union dues, public-sector unions have worried about proving themselves indispensable to their members. “The union negotiates with the city to provide these health benefits, so you could argue that if there were no union, there would be no health benefits,” Rodberg said, adding, “They fight for the fact that they have to fight for health care.”

Nespoli and the leaders of the United Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, and Teamsters Local 16, all of which are part of MLC, did not respond to requests for comment.

Following the 2018 cost-cutting agreement, union leaders and officials came up with eight proposals to meet the cost-cutting requirements, including switching to a statewide single-payer system or setting up a self-insurance system.

A January 2021 study by the New School found that the city could save about $1.6 billion per year if it adopted a self-insurance program, as most major cities and large companies have done. That would involve setting up a health insurance plan just for the city’s employees and paying for claims directly, rather than paying premiums to a health insurance company which tends to be more expensive because insurance company profit margins are so large.

But since the negotiations between the MLC and Office of Labor Relations were held behind closed doors, retirees don’t know whether this option was ever considered.

Retirees pointed to MLC personnel with ties to the health insurance companies that could end up providing the new Medicare Advantage plans as potential conflicts of interest. Gregory Floyd, president of the Teamsters Local 237 and secretary of the MLC, is on the board of EmblemHealth.


Source URL: https://portside.org/2021-10-20/unions-shouldnt-be-helping-health-industry

 

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