The new UFT Retiree Health Care Committee, created by the union’s Retired Teachers Chapter, was busy this summer dissecting the proposed NYC Medicare Advantage Plus Plan and getting members’ questions answered before the plan was adopted by the Municipal Labor Committee in July.
The committee was proposed by UFT President Michael Mulgrew at a virtual town hall with retirees in May to brief them on the ongoing negotiations. Formed in early June, the standing committee is made up of 50-plus RTC members who volunteered their time to make sure retirees had the most accurate and up-to-date information and to keep the lines of communication open about health care concerns.
The committee, chaired by Vincent Gaglione, met virtually with Mulgrew and UFT Welfare Fund Executive Director Geof Sorkin several times in June to discuss the issues that needed to be addressed.
It compiled 14 pages of questions, concerns and issues about the proposed health plan. Mulgrew arranged an in-person meeting at the UFT’s Brooklyn borough office on July 6 with committee members and executives from the three insurance companies — EmblemHealth, Empire BlueCross BlueShield and Anthem — that had banded together to develop the plan. The insurers addressed numerous concerns at that two-hour meeting, and the committee asked that the answers be put in writing.
When he arranged that meeting, Mulgrew set the paradigm for other municipal unions by getting answers directly from plan officials.
“Most committee members feel we had an impact on the evolution of the plan,” said RTC Chapter Leader Tom Murphy. “Certainly, the insurers heard clearly our concerns about the inclusion of our doctors, specialists and hospitals, preauthorization and the need for prompt payment.”
Murphy said the committee has been an advocate and voice for retired UFT members throughout the process.
“The UFT committee is not a shill for the new plan,” Murphy said. “Rather, we want retirees to use the available resources — the written description and provisions of the plan and the plan’s phone line — to help them decide whether to stay with the new premium-free plan or pay the premium difference to remain in their current plan.”
The RTC hosted a special virtual meeting on the NYC Medicare Advantage Plus Plan on Aug. 30, where plan representatives made a presentation and answered common questions gathered, in part, by the UFT Retiree Health Care Committee. Listen to the recording of the Medicare Advantage presentation.
Going forward, the committee intends to continue exploring — and reporting regularly on — health care issues that affect RTC members.
Following months of painstaking negotiations, the Municipal Labor Committee voted on July 14 to approve a new group health care plan for all Medicare-eligible New York City retirees that allows the municipal unions to address the rising cost of health care while maintaining their current benefits and quality of care.