Sunday, November 28, 2021

Attack on the NYC City Council and the Health Benefits of NYC Workers and Retirees

The battle over health insurance for NYC Medicare eligible retirees is being fought over 126.b.(1) of the NYC Admin Code as well as workers’ contractual rights. This fight, however, effects all NYC retirees and workers.

The key part of Section 12-126 that is in dispute is:

Section 12-126. … b. Payment of health insurance costs. Except as otherwise provided in section 12-126.1 and section 12-126.2 of this chapter, for city employees, city retirees and their dependents: * (1) The city will pay the entire cost of health insurance coverage for city employees, city retirees, and their dependents, not to exceed one hundred percent of the full cost of H.I.P.-H.M.O. on a category basis. Where such health insurance coverage is predicated on the insured's enrollment in the hospital and medical program for the aged and disabled under the Social Security Act, the city will pay the amount set forth in such act under 1839 (a) as added by title XVIII of the 1965 amendment to the Social Security Act. …

The City Council’s Legislative Authority

The City Council is the legislative body for the NYC government.

On June 28, 2001, the NYC City Council unanimously overrode the mayor’s veto and passed Local Law 39 of 2001.This law modified Section 12-126.b.(1) of the Admin Code of the city of New York. Specifically, it made permanent the full refund of Part B premiums to eligible NYC retirees who were paying those premiums to the federal government as part of their Medicare benefits. This vote makes it clear that the City Council has authority over this part of Section 12-126 even in the face of mayoral opposition. As an insight to this law, remember who the mayor was in 2001.

The Proposed MAP Contract

As part of the Medical Advantage Plus (MAP) contract that the City wants to sign with Alliance, there is the following clause (Addendum A, Quoted Stipulations, page 4 ):

“Retirees who opt out of the NYC Medicare Advantage Plus Plan must pay the premium difference between the NYC Medicare Advantage Plus Plan and their selected retiree Medicare health plan, if applicable.”
In its raw form, this an agreement between two parties to damage a third party. The City and Alliance drafted this provision to put in place a mandatory penalty for retirees who choose to leave the MAP plan. The driving force behind Alliance’s profit margin is the number of retirees in the MAP plan. The more retirees that opt out, the less money that comes in from CMS ,the federal Medicare administrator, and the higher the risk of claim losses becomes.

Attack on the City Council

In addition to this attack on retirees, the clause is a secretive attempt to subvert the legislative authority of the City Council. It is my opinion that this clause violates the City Charter. The clause clearly attempts to block the City Council’s legislative authority over Section 12-126 and destroy the purpose of this 54-year-old statute.

At the November 10th City Council contract hearing, the OLR Commissioner made no mention of this penalty clause in the contact. She was there to sell the benefits of the MAP plan and not clearly state the problems with the MAP plan. Specifically, there was no mention of the fact that this would be an almost $4B annual contract. That is the amount that CMS will pay Alliance each year to cover the retirees’ health benefits. According to the stipulations in the contract, the City will only pay a trivial $14M in the first year of this five-year contract ($7.50 per month per retiree). This a dump and run scam if I ever saw one.

What would happen if the City Council chose to begin action to modify Section 12-126.b.(1) explicitly requiring the City to pay for the Senior Care premiums for eligible NYC retirees, like the action it took with Local Law 39/2001?

Would the Law Department argue that the mayor’s contract prevents the Council from passing such a law? I am beginning to think that this contract is illegal as it is currently drafted.

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