New-York News

Appeals court rejects city’s bid to switch municipal retirees to Medicare Advantage plans


A state appeals court upheld a previous ruling barring New York City from transferring 250,000 municipal retirees to Medicare Advantage plans, marking another victory for retirees who say the shift would have offered them worse, more expensive health care.

The appeals court voted unanimously to reject the city’s plan to switch retirees from traditional, government-funded Medicare plans to a Medicare Advantage plan, administered by a private company contracting with Medicare. The court ruled that officials were not authorized to walk back on a promise to provide elderly and disabled retirees with traditional Medicare coverage and a city-funded supplemental plan to close the gaps, and thus force them to enroll in a plan run by a private company.

“The City has made clear, consistent, unambiguous representations – oral and written – over the course of more than 50 years, that New York City municipal worker-retirees would have the option of receiving health care in the form of traditional Medicare with a City-paid supplemental plan,” Justice Ellen Gessmer wrote in the decision.

“Consequently, the City cannot now mandate the proposed change eliminating that choice,” Gessmer said.

Nicholas Paolucci, spokesman for the city Law Department, said that the city plans to appeal the decision.

“The city’s plan, which was negotiated closely with and supported by the Municipal Labor Committee, would improve upon retirees’ current plans and save $600 million annually,” Paolucci said. “This is particularly important at a time when we are already facing significant fiscal and economic challenges.”

New York City announced its plan to switch municipal retirees from traditional Medicare plans in 2018 in an attempt to save the city money. But that plan was met with fierce opposition from retirees, who said that the city was trying to shirk its responsibility to provide health care to older and disabled former employees. They expressed concerns that Medicare Advantage is not accepted by many of their doctors and would be more expensive than staying on traditional Medicare plans.

Despite the pushback from retirees, Mayor Eric Adams advanced the Medicare Advantage switch last March, signing a contract with Hartford, Connecticut-based insurer Aetna that would have automatically enrolled retirees in the new plan. The workers filed a class-action lawsuit against the city to block the change – a request that was ultimately granted by a trial court.

Jake Gardener, a lawyer with Walden Macht & Haran who represents the retirees, said that the recent decision proves that the city’s proposal wronged former city employees.

“You’ve been telling people for over 50 years to come work for the city, and risk their lives for the city in exchange for promised health care benefits,” Gardener said. “And then when they’re elderly and disabled and retired, to take away those promised benefits – I think it just strikes everyone as deeply unfair.” 


Amanda D'Ambrosio , 2024-05-22 11:33:04

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