Tuesday, March 21, 2023

NYC Municipal Retirees Crash Aetna Meeting!, L.A. school employees will begin a three-day strike on Tuesday, as UFT Leaders Disparage Strikes

In 1975 the overwhelming majority of teachers (I was one of them) were willing to accept two for one Taylor Law penalties to stand up for their 15,000 laid off colleagues. The UFT is a very different union from those days.

Are Teacher Strikes Antiquated? How Should Teachers/Teacher Unions Respond to the Current Attacks on Teachers and Public Education? -- Peter Goodman, long-time Unity Caucus apologist

The contrast between the NYC UFT and the LA UTLA teacher unions is beyond astounding. Our leaders emphasize our right not to strike and use their shills to claim we are in a post-teacher strike phase.

Nick has a blog on that -

Why doesn’t UFT leadership want us to have the right to strike?

while the teacher union in Los Angelos is refusing to cross the picket lines for the next three days of the lowest paid school workers.

Note how our UFT leadership begged the city council (unsuccesfully) to create a two-tier healthcare system by allowing the wealthiest members to buy their way out of Medicare Advantage.

View in browser | nytimes.com
The New York Times


L.A. school employees will begin a three-day strike on Tuesday, canceling classes for more than 400,000 students as workers demand higher pay.

Monday, March 20, 2023 11:39 PM ET

The union that represents 30,000 support workers in the Los Angeles Unified School District is seeking a 30 percent pay increase, saying that many employees make little more than the minimum wage and are struggling to afford the cost of living in Southern California.

Read more

And out warrior retirees were risking arrest -- 

Here's a little video about the Action at the Aetna Mock Retire Training.

NYC Municipal Retirees Crash Aetna Meeting!

Security attempts to corral Medicare Advantage protesters inside the Conrad Hotel in New York City. Photos by Steve Wishnia

By Steve Wishnia

A group of seven New York City municipal retirees protesting NYC’s plan to privatize their Medicare coverage slipped into the Conrad Hilton hotel today in Battery Park City where the Aetna insurance company was about to hold a session to prepare union staff on how to tell retirees about the company’s Medicare Advantage plan.

“We want to keep the care we have!” retired music teacher Trudy Silver called out from one side of the room, where attendees were finishing their lunches and mingling before the session. “We don’t want your Aetna plan!” her compatriots — all of them women — responded from the other side of the space. 

Silver then swiveled through the crowd, around the small barstool-style tables, and past the buffet, as men in purple Aetna-logo T-shirts tried to push her out. One tried to block a news photographer’s camera angles. Eventually, all seven women were herded out by security guards.

Members of the Cross-Union Retirees Organizing Committee deliver their message despite attempts to shut them out.

“They’re preparing the propaganda,” Sarah Shapiro of the Cross-Union Retirees Organizing Committee [CROC] said before the March 20 action.

Earlier this month, the Municipal Labor Committee [MLC], which includes 102 unions representing civil service workers, approved the city’s agreement with Aetna to provide a privatized, profit-driven Medicare Advantage plan for retirees, who now have traditional Medicare with city-funded supplemental coverage. Mayor Eric Adams’ administration then announced its intention to make the Aetna plan the only premium-free health coverage available to retirees.

“We want to keep the health care we have, and we’re not going to give up,” Silver told Work-Bites afterwards. “Forty percent of the nation has been boondoggled into accepting privatized Medicare. We’re not going to in New York.”

Retired United Federation of Teachers member and former special-education teacher Denise Rickles said that she opposes the privatization of Medicare and that “Aetna is a disreputable insurance company” that’s under federal investigation.

In 2021, CVS Health, which acquired Aetna three years prior, revealed in a financial filing that it was being audited by federal Department of Health and Human Services inspectors to check for “diagnostic upcoding,” in which patients’ diagnoses are written to list more serious conditions than they actually have. Medicare pays insurers at a higher rate if the people they cover are sicker.

These NYC municipal retirees successfully slipped into the Conrad Hotel on March 20, to protest the ongoing campaign to privatize traditional Medicare coverage.

Last year, a Kaiser Health News review of 90 audits of Medicare Advantage plans done by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services between 2011 and 2013 — the most recent available, obtained after litigation — found upcoding a common practice in the industry. The overpayments averaged more than $1,000 per person at 23 plans, including 10 owned by Humana. Overall, the companies had claimed excess payments for 20 percent of the patients in the audits.

In October 2021, the Justice Department sued Kaiser Permanente, the fifth-largest insurer in the Medicare Advantage market, charging that it used algorithms to find ailments it could then pressure doctors to add to diagnoses. It sought reimbursement and triple damages for more than 350 allegedly fraudulent diagnoses.

CVS Health has 3.1 million people enrolled in its Medicare Advantage plans, according to a study last year by the Kaiser Family Foundation. That gave it 11 percent of the market, ranking fourth among U.S. health-insurance companies after United Health, Humana, and Blue Cross Blue Shield. New York City imposing Medicare Advantage on retirees would add as many as 250,000 more enrollees.

“People put their trust in unions,” Rickles added. “But for the past few decades, unions have not really represented their membership.”

The UFT and District Council 37, the two largest unions in the Municipal Labor Committee, have actively pushed for the switch to Medicare Advantage, as has the Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association. The Professional Staff Congress [PSC], which represents City University of New York faculty and staff, has opposed it. A PSC staffer attending the session said he was sympathetic to the protesters, but wasn’t the right person to comment.

“I’m on your side,” another union official told the protesters after they’d left the building. She quickly rushed inside.

Silver, a jazz singer, said she knew the attendees had heard their message.

“I know how to throw my voice,” she said.


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