Don’t let petty politics kill the city’s retiree health-care savings

Despite bogus objections from city Comptroller Brad Lander, City Hall registered the contract with Aetna to run a Medicare Advantage plan that’ll save the city $600 million a year. But now City Councilman Charles Barron (D-B’klyn) wants to throw another wrench in the gears.

The plan will enroll 250,000 retired city workers and their dependents as of September. The projected savings help fund the latest round of municipal labor contracts that hike wages for cops, teachers, firefighters, sanitation and clerical workers.

The Municipal Labor Committee (repping most city-worker unions) agreed to this back in the de Blasio years, but court battles and political resistance have delayed it ever since.

For that, thank the tiny cadre of retirees — most of whom no longer call the Big Apple home — who resent the change (and the union leaders who endorsed it).

Lander’s refusal to register that contract was a political nod to that cadre; that City Hall could readily overrule him shows how cheap a gesture it was.

But the nay-sayers just got Barron to introduce a bill to amend the city’s administrative code allow opting out of the new plan. Council members facing few re-election challenges are rumored to be poised to back the bill — out of a fear of offending out-of-town union retirees.

City Councilman Charles Barron
If a bill proposed by Charles Barron measure becomes law, it’ll throw all the recent contracts in doubt.
Gregory P. Mango

These clueless union-endorsed council members seem unconcerned that they could undo the recent union contracts and wage hikes predicated on the annual $600 million savings.

If the Barron measure becomes law, it’ll throw all the recent contracts in doubt.

Mind you, the retirees moved to Medicare Advantage won’t have to pay a dime towards the premium. The Aetna plan is better than the current Senior Care one: lower costs, a cap on out-of-pocket expenses, lower deductibles, plus new benefits, such as transportation, fitness programs and wellness incentives.

Plus, the move ensures that future retirees will have affordable health coverage: The city could back out of providing these benefits if the cost grows too high.

Pensions and retiree health care have been eating an ever-larger chunk of the city budget for decades now, the downside of longer lifespans.

States and cities across the nation have been switching retirees to Advantage plans; the only thing that makes New York City different is that some of its former union workers feel entitled to have the taxpayers (and future workers) bear the cost of protecting them from change.

Speaker Adrienne Adams needs to back up the mayor (and the unions!) and squelch Barron’s bill.

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