Saturday, June 18, 2022

Successful anti-MulgrewCare Rally - Politicians support including Jumaane Williams (for Gov) - Cross-union Retiree Organizing Committee (CROC)

Retiree Advocate/UFT is part of CROC --- a really good group of NYC union people -- one of the more successful broad union groups brought together by the attack on our Medicare by our own union leaders.

If you wander what UFT retiree activists do, we have noon rallies, followed by a trip to a bar. We had a great rally on Thursday outside the gates to City Hall - much bigger attendance than I expected. What surprised me the most was how many electeds support us. Jumaane Williams on the way to another event in his run for governor, lent some cheer.

Of course we went to a bar afterwards -- but our old fave on Murray St has closed down permanently but we found another.

Signatories on Open Letter to NY Elected Officials Public Advocate

Jumaane D. Williams

New York City Council Members

Kristin Richardson Jordan Christopher Marte
Sandy Nurse
Charles Barron

Kamillah Hanks Shahana Hanif Alexa Aviles Julie Won Althea Stevens Tiffany Caban Carlina Rivera Lincoln Restler

NYS Assemblymembers

Robert C. Carroll Peter J. Abbate Stacey Pheffer-Amato William Colton Demond Meeks

Jo Anne Simon Gina L. Sillitti Kenneth Zebrowski Harvey Epstein Yuh-Line Niou

NYS State Senators

Jabari Brisport


Old ICERs: Pat Dobosz, Sean Ahern, Ellen Fox

Bobby Greenberg on right - New Action and Retiree Advocate


For Immediate Release

June 16, 2022


Sarah Shapiro, CROC

Municipal Retirees and NYC Elected Officials Demand Mayor Adams Stop Plan to Privatize Their Medicare

Photos and Video from Rally Here 

NEW YORK- Scores of NYC retirees from diverse municipal unions of teachers, plumbers, sanitation workers, hospital workers, school staff, firefighters and others gathered at City Hall with New York City elected officials to deliver a letter to the mayor telling him to stop the “ bait and switch” with Medicare benefits – by pushing them into a for-profit Medicare Advantage plan that is more costly and more likely to delay and deny them care. 

The former city workers, members of the Cross-union Retirees Organizing Committee (CROC), shared their grave concerns about what the switch to “Medicare DisAdvantage” will have on their health as it cuts the quality of their care as private insurance companies skim off profits from the plan. 

“I have atrial fibrillation, which carries a high risk of stroke or worse. I’ve reached the limits of surgery, and the usual drugs prescribed for afib would probably kill me. I sometimes need cardioversions to stop the afib – nothing else works. My doctor, one of the top doctors in the field, knows all this. With Medicare Advantage, my fear is that decisions about my health would be made by a stranger, someone who is not an expert in the field, who doesn’t know my history, and whose main concern is cutting costs. This is genuinely life-threatening for me," said Martha Cameron, who gets Medicare through her husband, a retired computer programmer for the City for 25 years.

Retirees delivered an open letter to Mayor Adams, signed by two dozen city and state elected officials calling on him to drop his appeal in a lawsuit seeking to force the 250,000 retirees into Medicare Advantage or pay a fee to keep their traditional Medicare. 

City Council members Alexa Avilés, Christopher Marte and Kristin Richardson Jordan and Assembly members Robert C. Carroll, Harvey Epstein and Joanne Simon joined the rally with seniors to demand Mayor Adams end his court battle against the workers who had served the city for decades.

“As Medicare Advantage plans face increased scrutiny over fraudulent billing and coverage denials, now is not the time for New York City to force retirees into these privatized plans,” said Council Member Alexa Avilés. “The City is shirking their responsibility to retirees who have served it honorably and now want to live out with a sense of security and dignity.  Retirees rightfully earned their benefits through years of dedicated service. We should deliver for them, not private companies that we know put profits over people.”

In place of their trusted and excellent traditional Medicare with premium-free supplement, the mayor now wants to force them to pay $2300/year to keep the excellent Medicare they have always had and were always promised.

“Our City’s municipal retirees should not be forced onto private Medicare Advantage plans. It won’t improve their healthcare and won’t save the City money.  New York City should not be undermining Medicare and must keep its promise to City workers that they retire with dignity and security,” said Assemblymember Robert Carroll

“No one should have to choose between affording groceries, rent, other necessities,  or medical care but for thousands of workers, that is exactly the choice the City is forcing as it continues to pursue this bait and switch plan. After serving our City, municipal retirees deserve better,” said Assemblymember Harvey Epstein

“We should be expanding healthcare for New Yorkers, not making it harder to use and more expensive. Municipal retirees devoted their lives to running this city and planned on getting the Medicare plans they earned, not the inadequate substitutes that are being foisted on them,” said Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon. “I stand with the city's retirees and urge the Mayor to reject plans that provide less care but cost taxpayers more than traditional Medicare. Insurance companies siphoning off fees - money that should be used to provide care – to increase their profits is wrong-headed and just plain wrong.”

“Switching to the Medicare Advantage plan would leave our retirees overburdened and under-covered. They have spoken clearly against this change, the courts have supported them, and the Mayor ought to honor their request by dropping the appeal,” said Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou. “Municipal retirees dedicated their lives to supporting this city, it is our duty to provide them the health care that they were promised.“

The retirees are fighting against the City’s plan to change their health benefits after years of service and dedication to this city. They say their traditional Medicare plan is much better.

“In May-- in ONE MONTH-- I had two emergency room visits and three CAT scans.  I am jumping for joy that all is well, and that I did not have to pay one cent for fantastic, immediate healthcare. WHY?  Because I have Medicare and a great supplement from the City of New York. I needed no prior authorizations and have no debt for incredibly expensive procedures.  I am lucky---but I'm here because I believe everyone should have this kind of care,” said Julie Schwartzberg, a retired staff trainer at the Health Department.

The for-profit Medicare Advantage plan is inferior, requires co-pays and dozens of prior authorizations and has a limited network of quality nationwide providers. It is also unfair to lower paid retirees with lower pensions– primarily women and retirees of color– who cannot afford to pay to keep their traditional Medicare.

Dana Simon, a retired librarian who is also visually and hearing impaired spoke of her nightmarish experience with a managed care insurance company in 2006 when her doctor recommended a 2nd cochlear implant surgery.

"The insurance company denied my surgery for almost 3 months. We had to appeal all the way to the NYS insurance commission, where three doctors finally ruled that my cochlear implant surgery was indeed necessary. But the whole ordeal took a real toll on me going through so many months of stress and heartache fighting for the medical care that I really needed. I'm afraid of the high rates of delays and denials these Medicare Advantage plans have. I don’t want to go through that again!” Simon said. 

Medicare Advantage plans are also a bad deal for taxpayers– as the profits private insurance companies siphon off raise their price tag tens of billions of dollars higher than traditional Medicare. Mayor Adams and Mayor DeBlasio before him have claimed the switch to Medicare Advantage is a cost saving measure for NYC, but the switch to a Medicare for All program like the New York Health Act would save the state billions of dollars, according to a 2018 study by the Rand Corp.

A recent federal study found that Medicare Advantage plans routinely delay or deny medically necessary care.

William Shenton, who retired from the New York City Housing Authority over 20 years ago, spoke of the ordeals he and his wife, Susan, have had with their drug coverage. 

“Susan has an incurable autoimmune disease. She purchased a private Medicare Part D drug plan for medication to treat her condition. This medication costs more than $12,000 for a 30-day supply.  Her monthly premium is about $30 and her copay is about $630 after more than $3,000 in January to get out of the “donut hole”. The NYC Medicare Advantage plan does not allow Susan to purchase a private part D drug plan. We are facing untenable expenses we hadn’t anticipated when I retired.”

The City’s plan, Medicare Advantage Plus, is administered by a consortium called the Alliance. This is made up of GHI, Emblem Blue Cross, and a national company called Anthem. Historically, Medicare Advantage corporations deny about 1 in 5 medical procedures. Anthem’s denial rate is twice the national average. 

Doctors and public health experts have raised serious concerns about the switch.

“This plan will reduce by nearly 25% the amount of money available to provide healthcare for City retirees. The City claims that the federal government will make up for what the City is not spending. That claim is false. Retirees will suffer under the City's Medicare Advantage plan,” said Leonard Rodberg, Research Director of the NY Metro Chapter of Physicians for a National Health Plan.

“Medicare (dis)Advantage places a middleman (a private health insurance company) between Medicare and the patient/doctor, resulting in denying or delaying needed health care through pre-authorization requirements” said Oliver Fein, Board Chair of Physicians for a National Health Program, New York Metro-chapter. “NYC retirees should not be forced into such an inferior plan.” 

The City Hall rally was the latest in the retirees’ campaign to stop the City from forcing them into costly lower-quality Medicare DisAdvantage.

The plan, originally approved by Mayor de Blasio, was scheduled to go into effect in phases starting in October 2021. Retirees from across the City came together to fight back and took the City to court. 

In March, a New York Supreme Court judge ruled that the City could not take away the retirees’ current traditional Medicare benefits.

Mayor Adams has taken over the push from his predecessor and is proceeding with an appeal, scheduled to be heard in the Appellate Court in September. 


Organizers: Cross-union Retiree Organizing Committee (CROC)


Hi all.
Sharing an op-ed from today’s NY Daily News that I authored in support of the tens of thousands of retired NYC municipal workers who are opposing a NYC-mandated effort to downgrade their medical coverage from traditional Medicare to for-profit Medicare Advantage.
Written in collaboration with Physicians for a National Health Program, NY Metro Chapter. PNHP is a single-issue organization that advocates for a universal, comprehensive single-payer national health program.
Written in memory of my life partner Ellen Bilofsky, to carry on her work.


Reject the cruelty of Medicare Advantage, NYC

By David M. Newman
New York Daily News, Jun 16, 2022 at 5:00 am
When my wife, Ellen Bilofsky, was diagnosed in 2021 with grade 4 glioblastoma, an inoperable form of brain cancer, we understood that our remaining time together was limited. We hoped to spend it with family and friends, sharing joyful memories and making Ellen as comfortable as possible. We did not anticipate that the last six months of her life would be consumed by constant battling with our medical insurer to obtain the care that Ellen needed and deserved. This happened largely because our excellent union-negotiated, employer-provided retiree health care coverage had been downgraded from traditional public Medicare to a for-profit Medicare Advantage plan.
In one instance, Ellen’s hospital-based medical team prescribed in-patient acute rehab, and, although the rehab facility approved her admission, our Medicare Advantage Plan determined these decisions to be “medically unjustified” and denied coverage. The denial was eventually overturned — but only after significant delay and interruption in treatment, and significant effort on our part to overturn the denial.
In a second instance, as Ellen’s life neared its end, her medical and rehab teams jointly determined that therapeutic and rehab treatment were no longer effective and prescribed palliative in-patient acute hospice care. The hospice facility approved her admission, but our Medicare Advantage plan again denied coverage, claiming Ellen was not ill enough to warrant in-patient hospice care and directing that she be discharged to home. We again appealed but this time we lost and Ellen returned home, presumably to die there. Only after direct intervention by a member of Congress did the plan agree to cover in-patient acute care hospice, to which she was clearly entitled per both Medicare and Medicare Advantage guidelines. Ellen passed away a few short weeks later in August 2021, after receiving excellent care at the hospice facility.
I am sharing these examples of the pain and suffering our Medicare Advantage plan caused our family because today 250,000 New York City municipal retirees are in court fighting to protect their quality health care from a similar switch from Medicare to Medicare Advantage. I urge Mayor Adams to withdraw his court appeal and cease efforts to force this switch.
Ellen was a strong and tenacious woman and, ironically, she had been advocating for years for universal single-payer health care as a social and racial justice issue. She was a tireless advocate for Medicare for All and the New York Health Act, which guarantees health care as a human right, and which would have provided the care she needed according to her medical team’s recommendations, without interference from insurance administrators. I remind the mayor that in his previous position as Brooklyn borough president, he hosted an informational forum on the New York Health Act — a forum that, incidentally, Ellen was instrumental in helping to organize and which highlighted many of the harms caused by privatized health care.
In April, an investigation by the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services confirmed that Medicare Advantage plans “sometimes delayed or denied…beneficiaries’ access to services, even though the requests met Medicare coverage rules.” It also noted that “denying requests that meet Medicare coverage rules may prevent or delay beneficiaries from receiving medically necessary care.”
Given Ellen’s experience and these findings, the city’s municipal retirees are right to be concerned that, under a Medicare Advantage regimen, they may suffer denied and delayed medical care. We were fortunate that a high-ranking elected official was able to secure in-patient acute hospice care for Ellen. However, it should not require congressional intervention for insurers to cover medically necessary treatment to which patients are clearly entitled.
The purported rationale for moving from traditional Medicare to Medicare Advantage is cost savings for the employer. In my case, that was a large telecommunications corporation. With regard to municipal retirees, that is the City of New York. However, recent research indicates that switching seniors to Medicare Advantage plans between 2010 and 2019 has cost Medicare in excess of $100 billion more than keeping them in original Medicare would have been. A better way to cut costs — while actually providing comprehensive coverage — would be to pass and implement the New York Health Act, which, according to one recent analysis, would save New York State $16.8 billion annually.
On Thursday, June 16, retired NYC municipal workers will join with councilmembers at City Hall to urge the mayor and city to protect retirees, retain traditional public Medicare coverage, and cancel the switch to Medicare Advantage.
Mayor Adams should stand up for quality public health care for all, and for the employees who served our city for decades. He should drop the city’s appeal to their lawsuit, restore their access to traditional Medicare, and work with New Yorkers to lower healthcare costs, remove barriers to treatment and raise the standard of care.
Newman is a resident of Flatbush, Brooklyn.

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