Following months of painstaking negotiations, the Municipal Labor Committee, the umbrella organization of municipal unions including the UFT, voted on July 14 to approve a new group health care plan for all Medicare-eligible New York City retirees. The new plan, which takes effect on Jan. 1, 2022, allows the municipal unions to address the rising cost of health care while maintaining their retired members’ current benefits and quality of care.
The NYC Medicare Advantage Plus Plan replaces traditional Medicare and a Medicare supplement plan with a single integrated program administered by EmblemHealth, Empire BlueCross BlueShield and Anthem. EmblemHealth will continue to administer the Medicare Part D rider.
Unlike individual and small-group plans that carry the Medicare Advantage name and leave subscribers with fewer medical options and/or higher costs, the NYC Medicare Advantage Plus Plan is a customized large-group plan akin to a preferred provider organization (PPO) that offers a wide network of providers with limited out-of-pocket charges.
“We used our significant collective power as the Municipal Labor Committee to create a plan unlike any other Medicare Advantage program in existence,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew. “This new plan not only mirrors and improves upon the GHI Senior Care program, but also includes aggressive oversight to protect member benefits.”
Under the new plan, Medicare-eligible retirees will continue to have premium-free access to the same doctors and hospitals that are presently in the GHI Senior Care program as well as access to additional doctors and health care providers in an extensive national network. The new plan allows access to any doctor who takes Medicare coverage. It also has the exact same prescription drug benefit as the GHI Senior Care program.
“It was always the goal of the Municipal Labor Committee to maintain a premium-free plan for retirees,” said Vincent Gaglione, the chair of the UFT Retiree Health Care Committee. That goal became more urgent, he said, when the GHI Senior Care program that had been free until that point changed to require fees and copays starting in January 2022.
Over the past 10 years, the city’s cost for health care has risen from some $5 billion to $11 billion. “Despite our successes in sheltering our members and their families from these rising costs, increases of this magnitude were not sustainable if we wanted to continue to have access to quality, premium-free health care,” said Mulgrew.
Gaglione said the NYC Medicare Advantage Plus Plan was able to conserve costs by tapping into federal subsidies that had been unavailable to the GHI Senior Care program. The new plan is projected to produce up to $600 million in health savings each year.
Retirees covered by any NYC Medicare health plan will be automatically enrolled in the new plan starting Jan. 1, 2022. They must, however, be enrolled in Medicare Part A and continue to pay their Medicare Part B premiums. The annual NYC Medicare Part B and IRMAA reimbursements, as well as the annual UFT Welfare Fund Optional Rider reimbursement, will continue unchanged.