Retired subway and bus operators are outraged over a change to their health benefits in the most recent contract between the Transport Workers Union and the MTA – but the union says the contract improves health coverage retirees and differs significantly from a municipal government plan currently facing legal challenges.
The deal – tentatively reached last month but still to be fully ratified by TWU members – would remove the traditional health insurance coverage option for retirees from the state-run MTA.
The union’s two Medicare Advantage plans, both administered by private insurance giant Aetna, would remain the only premium-free health coverage options for MTA retirees.
Unlike traditional Medicare, Advantage plans are administered by private health insurance companies. The plans are also subsidized with federal dollars at a higher rate than traditional Medicare options, providing local governments with budget savings.
“This is a blatant and not-so-professional attempt to deceive retirees and put them into a substandard health care system,” Anthony Tousis, a retired bus driver from Queens, told The Daily on Monday. News.
The plan comes as Mayor Adams faces new legal threats over his administration’s plan to transfer retired city government employees to a privatized Advantage plan.
Last month, a group of city retirees filed a lawsuit against the mayor, calling his attempted Medicare Advantage swap “unfair bait and switch” that violates various local laws in an attempt to generate income. savings for the city.
The group of retired teachers, cops, firefighters and other city workers pointed to studies by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General that show Advantage plan holders can being denied “medically necessary care”, in part because of the demands of private providers. that various procedures are “pre-approved”. The same group of retirees successfully blocked the Adams administration in court last year from enacting its first Advantage plan.
But a spokesperson for TWU Local 100 — which represents some 40,000 state employees who work for the MTA — told The News that the Medicare Advantage options in its interim contract were better than the city’s and would provide a better coverage for retired workers than the traditional outgoing one. Health insurance plan.
More than 99% of retirees using the traditional Medicare plan use doctors who would be accessible under Advantage plans, said TWU spokesman Pete Donohue.
Advantage plans have been part of the union’s benefits package for years, he added, and coverage would not be reduced in the future.
“This is not the city map, far from it,” reads a flyer sent to TWU 100 members. “There is no comparison. Coverage for our retirees is far superior.
“Unlike other unions, we have resisted the downward spiral of care for our Medicare-eligible retirees,” the union said in a statement to members over the weekend. “We were successful in demanding that millions of dollars of federal funds be directed towards improved medical coverage for TWU retirees [the union leadership’s name for Medicare Advantage] with two Aetna options.
The statement goes on to say that the more expensive of the two options would include a zero co-payment for generic drugs, primary care, preventive care and hospitalization, as well as a zero co-payment for emergency room visits – a improvement over outbound spending. traditional health insurance plan.
If the contract is ratified, the new benefit plans will come into effect next year.
Retirees are not entitled to vote on contracts, according to the union’s statutes.
“Here we are – the union decides our health benefits, and we don’t have a vote on it,” said Mike Tutrone, who was director of the union’s retirees’ association until three years ago. month. “How democratic is it?
Of the roughly 19,000 retirees currently receiving union health benefits, about 14,000 are enrolled in traditional health insurance, Tutrone said.
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Tutrone, who said he uses an Advantage plan himself, told The News he opposes scrapping the traditional Medicare option.
“The union has disenfranchised 14,000 pensioners,” he said. “Retirees get screwed here.”
Tom McNally, a retired MTA bus operator who also worked for TWU for nine years, said he felt betrayed by his union.
“They’re fucking us retirees for giving active members a raise,” McNally, 65, said, adding that he was told $36 million a year would be saved in health care costs from the Medicare switch. Advantage. “It’s all about the money.”
At least one active member — Seth Rosenberg, a Coney Island-based subway operator who has worked for the MTA for 17 years — seemed willing to vote down.
“When I found out what was going on with the city workers I thought it was awful – and then when I found out our union was trying to sell out its own pensioners I got furious, because that we’re all going to be retirees one day,” Rosenberg said.
“The fact that the union leadership presents this as a good thing is an abomination.”