Saturday, June 3, 2023

The May 24 rally - Medicare switch looms, but retirees’ opposition persists - The Chief -

Congrats to reporter Charlotte Robertson who is interning at The Chief this summer and this was her first assignment. Nice job.
There is another rally at the UFT DA Wednesday June 7 supporting the NY Health Act and yet another at City Hall on Thursday June 8 at 11.
Oy, when do we go to the beach?
Also note this:
NYC Retirees are organizing with retirees from several other states to escalate the campaign against forced enrollment in Medicare Advantage. Along with 39,000+ other current and future retirees, I wrote a letter for the Action Network letter campaign: End Auto Enrollment into Medicare Advantage. Let's contact our Elected Officials and let them know how forcing us into Medicare Advantage plans will negatively impact us.

It takes just a few minutes to send your letter thru this link:


WHAT I WROTE (& other info on Medicare Advantage & auto-enrollment below):

We are American Retirees & future retirees from all over the country, who are all facing the same issue, having our former employer or union auto-enroll us into a Privatized – For- Profit Medicare Advantage plan and removing us from Traditional Medicare with a supplement.

Medicare Advantage Plans were founded to be a choice, not a mandate. They are inferior to Traditional Medicare, can cost more for some retirees, and many providers do not accept them, leaving retirees without continuity of care. As elected officials, you have surely heard that many of these insurers are under investigation by the Department of Justice for Medicare fraud and that the Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General found these insurers to wrongly delay and deny care. If we are to protect the Medicare Trust Fund, we should not be allowing private insurers to drain the public coffers by up-coding and putting a burden on the American taxpayers.

The Center for Medicare Advocacy stated, “in December 2000, a provision was added to the statute regarding employer or union sponsored group Medicare Advantage (MA) plans, which gave the secretary the broad authority to ‘waive or modify requirements that hinder the design of, the offering of, or the enrollment in [such MA] plans. This provision paved the way for the creation of the automatic enrollment process whereby employers or unions could automatically enroll their retirees in an MA plan so long as they provide advance notice and a mechanism to opt out.”

Sadly, they were not required to provide a plan to opt out into, leaving them only to re-enroll themselves into traditional Medicare but most likely without a supplemental plan. That is because you would be subject to underwriting if over 65, and in many cases no access or expensive premiums if you are disabled and under 65.

We implore you to roll back this statute (42 U.S.C.A. § 1395w-27 (West 2003))that was implemented with no public comment period in 2000, and allow Americans the ease of access to Traditional Medicare that has been customary and requires the employers and unions to live up to the promises they made to retirees. In many situations, retirees will be forced to remain in Medicare Advantage because they cannot afford to "opt out." This only benefits the Insurer and not the Medicare Beneficiary or the United Stated Medicare Trust. This also permits the unions and employers to cease providing promised benefits to retirees who can no longer negotiate as because they are no longer employed. Many of us are currently fighting for our earned and paid for Federal Medicare. Some are in Continuing Care Residential Communities where Medicare Advantage is not accepted and many of our doctors do not accept them either.

STATE ELECTEDS: While this is a FEDERAL STATUTE ISSUE, Elected Officials on the STATE LEVEL MUST be aware, as this is affecting YOUR constituents! Employers and unions NATIONWIDE, are "auto enrolling" retirees; the disabled and seniors, into these plans and out of Traditional Medicare where they may never be able to secure a supplemental plan (pays the last 20% of medical bills Medicare does not) because of a lack of State wide guarantee issue rights.

The Federal government should not be permitting retirees, seniors and the disabled to be auto enrolled into privatized Medicare plans and out of Federal Medicare that they paid into since they earned their first paycheck.

We urge you to support retirees who want to remain enrolled in Medicare with the Supplement they were promised decades ago. Many of our former employers or unions made promised to us. Now, is not the time to renege on them.

Yours truly,

Links to articles:




Medicare switch looms, but retirees’ opposition persists

Posted Saturday, May 27, 2023 3:01 pm
Even as the city proceeds with a shift of its 250,000 municipal retirees to a private Medicare Advantage plan, scheduled for Sept. 1, former city workers continue to voice their opposition, if in fewer numbers. 
As they have on occasion since city officials announced the change, dozens gathered near City Hall Wednesday to once again denounce the effort. 
“We will fight this as long as we have to,” said Sarah Shapiro, a former city teacher of 28 years and United Federation of Teachers retiree. She has been protesting the Advantage plan for the past two years. 
Shapiro, sporting a baseball cap inscribed “Adams Screws Retirees,” said she remained determined. “I’ve been around, and so have these other retirees. We’ve worked our entire lives for the city,” she said. “We have been active in our unions our entire lives. We are aware and we are engaged.”
Following years of litigation, push-back from former municipal workers and a contentious arbitrator's ruling, Adams administration officials signed the five-plus year contract with the managed-care company in early April. The administration’s endorsement followed ratification of the Aetna contract by the Municipal Labor Committee, the umbrella group of city unions, a month earlier. 
Both the de Blasio and Adams administrations have argued that the switch was necessary given the escalating cost of health care. Officials have said the switch will save the city about $600 million a year. The savings, in the form of federal subsidies, will be funneled into the city’s Joint Health Insurance Premium Stabilization Fund, which finances the unions’ welfare-fund benefits, among other purposes.
Ever since its conception, though, municipal retirees have fiercely opposed the Medicare Advantage plan — or “DisAdvantage plan,” as some referred to it on numerous posters and banners they carried during their rally, arguing that quality of care offered by the managed-care giant would pale in comparison to their plans.
‘There are alternate ways’
The rally took place as the City Council’s Finance Committee conducted hearings on the executive budget, inviting testimony from residents. 
“We thought we would have our own public hearing outside about our issue,” said Gloria Brandman, another UFT retiree and founding member of the Cross-Union Retirees Organizing Committee (CROC). Echoing Shapiro, she emphasized that retirees had no significant say in regarding a proposed plan switch. 
“There are alternate ways for the city to save money. It is a small percentage of the budget, it is very small, what this would save,” she said.
Shapiro noted that retiree health care will consume less than 1 percent of the city’s $105 billion budget. “Don’t we matter? After years and years of dedication to the city?” she asked. 
Retirees argue that the Advantage plan will place limitations on their care. Brian Wonsever, who worked in the Department of Homelessness Services for 33 years before retiring, noted that while the vast majority of doctors accept traditional Medicare, far fewer accept private Medicare plans. 
Opting out of the Advantage plan and into HIP VIP plan, he continued, would cost people about at least $6,000 a year. “It’s a matter of choice,” he said.
But some have argued that many don’t have that choice, saying they accepted lower salaries to work for the city in return for the promise of superior health benefits in retirement. 
Without that, many said they were struggling to envision a healthy future — with even some current city workers becoming fearful. “I soon plan to retire and I see that it’s going down the drain,” said Anatoly Kantorovich, a current employee at the Department of Health and a self-described retiree-in-training. 
Across the board, the retirees argued that the Advantage plan prioritizes money over adequate and accessible care. “I’m just going to say it plain: If you have ever dealt with an insurance company, you know they are not about efficiency,” Wonsever declared. 
Camillo Biener, who retired from the Human Resources Administration after 26 years with the city, agreed. “It’s a total fallacy, the efficiency argument,” he said. 
“Medicare Advantage gives less than Medicare. So what happens essentially is that these companies that run these plans get more money, and they give less services,” Biener said. “Does that make any sense at all?” 
A faction of UFT members opposed to the switch — which was supported by the union’s president, Michael Mulgrew — has since begun petitioning for a vote regarding any future proposed changes to health-care plans. “Our union never asked us if we wanted to change our health plan,” Brandman summarized.
The retirees read dozens of testimonies from those who could not attend the rally, some because of health issues. 
Shortly before 11 a.m., the retirees headed from City Hall Park toward where Mayor Eric Adams was dedicating new public space under the Brooklyn Bridge. Biener followed, walking his dog, who wore a sign reading, “If my daddy dies because he had to wait too long for pre-approval, who will take care of me?” 
As he walked to the bridge, Beiner told The Chief, “My suggestion to all the media and everybody is to follow the money. … I wish somebody would look into this stuff, because this thing is a lot deeper, and a lot more troubling, than what people think.” 
Shapiro, while frustrated and angry, retained some optimism. “We want to remind everybody that retirees vote,” she said. “We cannot risk the demise of public Medicare when these ‘Medicare disadvantage’ plans are taking over the market.” 



Julie W. said...

Whoever said HIP VIP is $6000 a year is wrong. I’m in it. There’s no premium for the medical side for any of these plans, only the drug component, which is true of Senior Care as well. Minus the $840 that we’re reimbursed for the drug rider, the annual drug costs (not including Part D IRMAA, which some people have) come to: Sr Care $660, HIP VIP $1291, new Aetna $402.
As for the medical side, there’s a difference in deductibles: Sr Care has $50 above Part B deductible = $276, HIP $0, new Aetna $150.
What the person probably meant is that to opt out of the new plan and into a plan on the open market would cost $6000. But the HIP VIP option does not. It’s one of the two city plans, and neither have a premium for medical.

As for the statement “Medicare Advantage gives less than Medicare,” totally inaccurate. For some maybe, not for each individual. For example: Advantage plans generally offer an annual physical and gym membership. Original/Traditional Medicare gives neither. Another example: Medicare pays only 80% of outpatient services. It’s Sr. Care (or a Medigap) that’s picking up the 20%. HIP picks up those costs as well.

I wish people would get their terminology right, but they don’t, and that muddies the whole situation. And some of what they say is made up entirely out of whole cloth.

Paul Hogan said...

I suspect Mr. Biener's got it about right:

>>>>“My suggestion to all th e media and everybody is to follow the money. … I wish somebody would look into this stuff, because this thing is a lot deeper, and a lot more troubling, than what people think.” >>>>

WILL the media follow the money? Well ... no. ' Course not. Have they *ever*? Not the NYC media, anyway. Too many cozy relationships and interlocking connections.

This is something we're going to have to make happen on our own.