NEW YORK (CBSNew York) – There is a silver lining for the hundreds of thousands of retired municipal workers who have suddenly had their health benefits altered due to what they call a bait-and-swap deal between Mayor Bill de Blasio and the unions.
They claim that they are forced to accept an inferior and expensive plan that could ruin them in their golden years.
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As CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reports, if the next mayor is successful, an army of retired teachers, cops, correctional officers and other former city employees will be helped to keep benefits. health that they were promised when they went to work for the city.
The two men vying to replace de Blasio say the city must honor its pact with its employees, who have often taken low-paying jobs because of benefits.
“You don’t become a civil servant to become a billionaire. You become a civil servant to have stable health care, a stable retirement and a stable life. And we can’t destabilize him after they retire, ”said Democratic mayoral candidate Eric Adams.
Adams said if he wins the election he will look at the controversial deal made by de Blasio and the unions to save $ 600 million with a massive change in health insurance offered to 250,000 retirees.
People like former NYCHA employee Bill Shenton and his wife Susan, who are faced with the choice of accepting the city’s new plan – Medicare Advantage Plus – or opting out to maintain their existing insurance, which will cost them $ 200. $ more per month each.
“I think it’s a betrayal,” Shenton said. “We were told it would be for life, that we would have the same insurance as when we were working and that it would cover our family. And now it is being taken back from us.
The Shentons say they have to pay to stay on the old plan because the new one would only cover a fraction of the drugs Susan takes for chronic lung disease. A single drug costs $ 130,000 per year.
“A lot of people don’t realize I’m a retiree,” Adams said.
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As a retired cop, the problem is personal for Adams.
“Can you undo this? This is really a very, very important problem, ”Kramer asked.
“Yes. I really have to look at it and see what my powers are if I get the chance to be the mayor of the reverse gear, or see how you don’t destabilize retirees. Nothing is scarier for a retiree. that’s starting to go through health care crises, ”Adams said.
“You could definitely call it a bait and a switch. You are promised one thing, you get priority health care, the doctor of your choice, the drug of your choice, the therapy of your choice, the specialist of your choice. And now all of a sudden they don’t give you that promise anymore. It’s breaking your word, ”said Republican mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa.
Sliwa says he would also seek to cancel the deal if he replaces de Blasio.
“It’s not like all of a sudden there’s no more money in the system. You promised them. Let’s find the money, ”Sliwa said. “Let’s start eliminating all of Blasio’s programs that weren’t effective or didn’t exist and spend the money where he promised people they would get health care.”
“I would like to tell the mayor that he might be interested in results, but he doesn’t care about people,” said Susan Shenton.
A group of retirees filed a lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court to prevent the plan from happening. They say they are not legally represented by the unions that negotiated the deal.
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Insurance company Aetna is also contesting the ruling, claiming the company the city hired was an unqualified bidder.