Skip to content

The Problem Was the Plan, Not the Details

March 5, 2023 am31 2:09 am

UFT retirees did not like Mulgrew’s Medicare Advantage plan in the Spring of 2021. Now he is announcing a new Medicare Advantage plan. Details have changed. But it is still Medicare Advantage.

The problem was Medicare Advantage, not the details.

Mulgrew is announcing a new health plan. This is for Medicare-eligible retirees. It will take them out of our medigap plan (GHI Senior Care) and move them onto an Aetna/CVS Medicare Advantage plan that the UFT’s Unity leadership had a direct role in negotiating.

Is Mulgrew’s New Plan better than Mulgrew’s Old Plan?

Yes. It is. There are details that are improved. There will be fewer prior authorizations. And maybe more doctors will take this one – though – and this is true, not a cheap shot – he boasted with the old one that all the doctors would take it. That was clearly not true.

If the New Plan is Better, What’s Wrong?

Back in the spring of 2021, when retirees found out that Unity and the MLC were secretly negotiating for Medicare Advantage – whoa – people got angry.

At first Unity lectured them like misbehaving 3rd graders. According to Mulgrew, the people who were upset, our retirees, they were the ones who were wrong. Prior authorizations – according to Mulgrew, Sorkin, Murphy, etc – were just to stop abuse. All doctors – the same folks claimed – would take the plan. This was good. Better than good. Better than what our retirees currently have. People should stop whining. Silver Sneakers! I wish I had saved the recording of Mulgrew’s first zoom with retirees. The UFT removed it from the website. He berated people who were rightfully suspicious of Medicare Advantage, he talked down to retirees who clearly knew more than him.

At some point Unity figured out that having Mulgrew talk down to members was not working. Why, they wanted to know, were people unhappy with the first Mulgrew Medicare Advantage plan?

The answers did not help Unity.

  • People were angry that Mulgrew had deceived them by negotiating without warning them. It was, after all, another union that let our retirees know this was going on. (Unity often says they do not negotiate in public – which I think is a mistake – but this time they not only negotiated secretly – they hid from our members that there were even negotiations going on at all.)
  • People wanted to keep their current health care (GHI Senior Care).
  • People did not want Medicare Advantage.

How could Unity address any of this? Members were saying “just don’t do what you are doing.” I mean, Unity could have apologized for sneaking behind retirees backs. I thought they might. They did not.

No Really, What’s Wrong?

As Unity pushed for answers, they turned to trying to find specific problems with the Medicare Advantage plan they had negotiated. They did not get straight to this, since they insisted for quite some time that it was the Best Possible Plan. But eventually they pressed the conversations, and got responses. They were still tough for Unity to work with:

  • Don’t want to change our current plan
  • Don’t like Medicare Advantage
  • Don’t trust privatization
  • Not able to return to Real Medicare if this plan doesn’t work out
  • Not enough doctors
  • Not accepted anywhere
  • Prior authorizations
  • Denials

See What We’ve Got?

I see it. You probably see it. Unity did not see it, or could not allow themselves to see it.

  • Don’t want to change our current plan
  • Don’t like Medicare Advantage
  • Don’t trust privatization
    • Not able to return to Real Medicare if this plan doesn’t work out
    • Not enough doctors
    • Not accepted anywhere
    • Prior authorizations
    • Denials

Retirees did not want to change. They didn’t like Medicare Advantage. They didn’t trust privatization. That’s where the objections lay.

Pressed for more details, retirees supplied something about doctors or coverage or preauthorizations or moving back. But the chief objection is about Medicare Advantage itself.

What did the MLC, OLR and Unity do?

Unity eventually went back to the Municipal Labor Committee and the Office of Labor Relations, and said that they could address member concerns in the negotiation with Aetna. And they did address retiree concerns – some of the secondary (important, but secondary) concerns. They could not address the main concern without giving up on Medicare Advantage.

And Now?

We will see. Mulgrew did nibble around the edges. There are many more preauthorizations under his second Medicare Advantage plan than there are today, but fewer than under his first Medicare Advantage plan (which Unity told us was fine). More doctors will take this one, but not as many as today. There’s a workaround for some denials – a workaround that is not necessary today.

Better than his first try. That’s true.

In fact, in the days leading to the announcement, more thoughtful Unity people were advising retirees to wait to see the details. And some of the details, it turned out, were at least somewhat improved.

But we all know what’s wrong. It’s a Medicare Advantage plan. Privatized Health Care. While our current plan is fine. Many retirees, probably most, will not be ok with this.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    March 5, 2023 am31 7:13 am 7:13 am

    Mulgrew, time and time again, proves that he thinks retirees, and membership at large, are idiots. Switch the shells around a little bit and trick the saps who agree to play three card monte, again.

    • March 8, 2023 pm31 10:35 pm 10:35 pm

      Looks like Unity and the MLC are working hard to move retirees onto Medicare Advantage. They are driven as if they have no choice, and it almost doesn’t matter what they think of us – they want this done.

  2. Lee permalink
    March 5, 2023 am31 8:15 am 8:15 am

    What amazes me is that Mulgrew is not telling inservice members that we will be getting the exact same deal if this goes through. According to the City Code, whatever change of healthcare that effects retirees must also be changed to inservice members too. Wait and see the outrage by the rank and file when this drops on them. However, once it does, there will be no changing back.

    • March 8, 2023 pm31 10:33 pm 10:33 pm

      So, there are already differences. In-service don’t have Senior Care, right? So it’s more nuanced, even today, than that.

  3. Tracy Stallard permalink
    March 5, 2023 am31 11:50 am 11:50 am

    Will there be an opt out under this travesty?

    • March 8, 2023 pm31 10:32 pm 10:32 pm

      No. Not if it goes through. (you can go for a traditional medigap plan, but then you are out of the city plan, lose coverage for dependents, lose reimbursements, etc. Expensive.)

  4. permalink
    March 5, 2023 pm31 2:47 pm 2:47 pm

    This goes to a larger issue.  That of conflict of  issues in general.


  1. UFT/MLC to Greenlight MAP Nuclear Option | New Action - UFT

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: