News & information.
An arbitrator’s non-binding report (12/15) has recommended that New York City switch over 250,000 retired city workers and their dependents to a privatized health insurance plan known as Medicare Advantage.
I have been an early supporter of the city retirees who are concerned about maintaining their current health providers and not having insurance companies be gatekeepers. Medicare Advantage plans give private insurance companies the power to overrule primary care physicians—and say which procedures will be allowed/permitted. Many retirees have health care issues and work very hard to stay healthy. Keeping their current insurance plan—called Senior Care—is critical in retaining access to their doctors and ensuring continuity of care.
The City administration and the municipal union leadership—the Municipal Labor Committee (“MLC”) and especially the UFT and DC37—are concerned about the $600 million per year that the current plan is costing the City. They feel that this expense is not sustainable in the future, and want to tap federal funds via a switch to the privately-administered Medicare Advantage plan. To force retirees into Medicare Advantage, the City and the MLC have been pushing the City Council to change the law that guarantees municipal employees, retirees, and their dependents health insurance. Up to this point, no one on the City Council has introduced a bill to change the code's section 12-126. I’ve urged the two sides to meet, as there are compromises that are a win-win for everyone.
The NYC Organization of Public Service Retirees won a Manhattan Supreme Court ruling finding that the City’s attempt to force retirees to pay a $191 per month fee to keep their Senior Care plan was illegal. An Appellate Court unanimously sustained the retirees’ victory and said that Administrative code 12-126 requires that the City pay for employees’ and retirees’ health insurance up to a defined dollar cap. That cap is currently about $800 per person per month; and the Senior Care plan costs only $191 per person per month.
The unions and the City want the City Council to change the administrative code to eliminate the cap—just for seniors. That would force retirees into a Medicare Advantage plan that would cost the City nothing. The arbitrator’s recommendation further suggested that if the City Council didn’t change Administrative Code 12-126 within 25 days, the City would simply kill Senior Care. Either course would have the same impact on retirees: they would no longer get Senior Care from the City, would no longer be guaranteed access to their doctors, and would have to endure dangerous prior authorization protocols imposed by a private insurance company. (There are no such prior authorization hurdles under traditional Medicare or Senior Care.)
The City and the MLC are currently negotiating with Aetna—the private insurance plan—to create a new Medicare Advantage plan for municipal retirees. (The City has offered various Medicare Advantage plans for years, but few retirees choose them because they are demonstrably worse than Senior Care.) Perhaps a better Medicare Advantage plan from Aetna would attract more retirees. But one thing is clear: if the City tries to force retirees into Medicare Advantage by killing Senior Care, the NYC Organization of Public Service Retirees will go back to court. And it is very likely they will win again. The retirees were promised Senior Care, and a promise is a promise.
No one is against finding healthcare savings. The retirees have pinpointed more than $300 million in annual recurring savings, and have identified a way for the City to tap hundreds of millions of dollars in Federal funds—without the dangers of prior authorization. All sides should sit down together and work this out.
I’m delighted to report that my bill to require that City agencies ask applicants in what language they prefer to receive summons notifications (Intro. 382-A) passed the Council this week.
And on Thursday, 1/12/23 at 1 pm, there will be a hearing on “Proliferation of Unlicensed Smoke Shops in NYC” held jointly with my Oversight and Investigations Committee, the Committee on Consumer and Worker Protection (chaired by Council Member Marjorie Velázquez) and the Health Committee (chaired by Lynn Schulman).
This hearing comes on the heels of the Upper West Side Town Hall sponsored by me and Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal last week, and follows my survey of Upper West Side smoke shops which discovered 26 retailers that were selling illegal weed. See coverage: Cannabis Town Hall Sheds Light on Legal Weed in West Side Rag and Less-Than-Legal Pot in the West Side Spirit.
Other cannabis news: Next Thursday (12/29) at Housing Works’ Astor Place location, the first legal recreational marijuana sale in New York State will take place.
The federal omnibus spending bill (which may or may not pass before Christmas) includes $800 million in grants for cities like New York to help pay for shelter, food, transportation, basic healthcare and first aid for asylum seekers. (Hotel Newton, on Broadway between 94th and 95th Street, is now housing many asylum seekers; please welcome them! This was also the hotel that welcomed many of my Haitian friends years ago.)
Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine has opened the 2023 Manhattan Community Board application period, now through 3/17/23. Current members who wish to serve another term must reapply.
Community Boards provide New Yorkers with an opportunity to participate in local democracy and decision making, helping to shape the future of Manhattan. Community Boards touch every aspect of life: parks, sanitation, education, land use, and public health.
As Borough President myself, I appointed or reappointed hundreds to serve on Community Boards; I served on Community Board 7 myself back in the 1990s—I recommend it!
Speaking of Community Boards, you may have seen “N.Y.C. Community Boards Usually Oppose New Housing. Not This One.” in the Times; here’s a link to the CB 4 Affordable Housing Report discussed there (PDF).
The public comment period on new proposed FAA and National Park Service rules governing tourist flights in New York Harbor which will likely increase helicopter traffic and noise in Lower Manhattan is open only until next Friday, 12/30. Please take the time to submit your comments at this National Park Service link. Visit Stop the Chop for guidance on the topic. Email them using this form for guidance on what to say.
Ballet Hispánico Company dancer Dandara Veiga has been included in Dance Magazine’s 2023 “25 to Watch” – an annual list of “trailblazers and breakout stars forging their own paths through the field of dance.” Congratulations!
Backlash erupts in NYC Council after Mayor Adams threatens nonprofit cuts (Gothamist)
Gale Brewer, a Manhattan city council member, said she was caught off guard by the mayor’s request to cut discretionary funds. “Every dollar I have allocated keeps the community safe, keeps it clean,” Brewer said during a council meeting. Her remarks occurred as members were deliberating proposed budget cuts from the mayor that they are expected to vote on next month...
Deal adds $1 billion for World Trade Center Health Program to omnibus spending bill (Newsday)
To combat illegal short-term rentals, NYC tries a new registration system for hosts. Here's how it works (Brick Underground)
New York Bans Pet Stores From Selling Dogs, Cats and Rabbits (NY Times) (This legislation was sponsored by UWS Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal)
NYC Helicopters Are Back, Sending Noise Complaints Soaring 678% (Bloomberg CityLab)
New Spending Bill Makes It Easier for Americans Saving for Retirement (NY Times)
A timeline on the closure of Rikers Island (City and State)
We just finished another edition of my printed-and-snail-mailed newsletter, but there were a few items that couldn’t fit into the “Bookmarks” section because of space limits (something that doesn’t really exist in email, lucky for me!):
Want to help animals? Here’s where to donate your money. (Vox.com)
Inside the Global Effort to Keep Perfectly Good Food Out of the Dump (NY Times)
Lots of food gets tossed. These apps let you buy it, cheap. (NY Times)
‘The True Cost,’ a Different Kind of Fashion Documentary (NY Times) (Here's a link to watch this documentary online)
Justfix.org publishes ‘Who Owns What?’ a landlord-lookup tool.