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Notes from the last week, April 9-16, 2023

April 16, 2023 am30 11:09 am

I write, when I write, blog posts focused on one topic. But sometimes I go for a while without writing. Today I’m trying to leave notes – too short to be articles – interesting items to share – or placeholders for fuller articles to come. Let’s see how this goes.

Photo, borrowed, shared a lot

I found this great photo, placing the Justins from Tennessee next to John Carlos and Tommy Smith. It IS a similar pose, right? Anyway, I made it shareable, and posted it on old people social media, and it got shared 128 times, and then reshared 80 times that I can see, and probably at least 80 more, and there’s probably shares of shares. In the world of “influencers” and “viral” this is nothing, and yet it is a lot for me, and it IS a cool photo. Feel free to repost.

Walking, Outdoors

Mostly urban walking this last week. Got to Rockefeller Preserve. Visited a community garden. But no Van Cortlandt Park or NY Botanical Gardens this week. Here’s a few from the Ujamaa Northeast Bronx Community Garden:

Medicare Advantage – how to choose?

For two years the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) leadership has been locked in a battle with retirees over healthcare. But this note is not about rehashing the battle. As of today the likeliest course of events is that Medicare-eligible retirees will be switched to Aetna/CVS on September 1, unless they choose to stay in traditional Medicare – but that involves leaving the City health plan, and losing some benefits. Also, the time for choosing – I believe – begins May 1 and ends June 30.

People like me don’t like Aetna Medicare Advantage – which colors our answers. The UFT leadership (mostly) have been acting like used car salesmen – the plan is great – better than before – everything will work perfectly. But for retirees who need to choose, neither one of those will do it. They need facts.

I spoke to a retiree yesterday. “Before all this I would have called the Welfare Fund for answers. But today I just do not trust them.”

The Professional Staff Congress (PSC), the union of CUNY professors (and others) has sent out a neutral fact sheet to their members. But the answers for UFT members will be at least slightly different, and no one trusts the UFT leadership to be neutral at this point. They have a lot of work to do to rebuild trust.

So I will try to devote several posts over the coming weeks to the kind of questions I am hearing. How can you find out if doctors will accept the new plan? What about SHIP? What about the Welfare Fund? What about drug plans? What about drug reimbursements? What’s the deal with prior authorizations? IRMAA? Part B reimbursement? Hearing aids? Can I move from Aetna to real Medicare? Can I move from real Medicare to Aetna?

Secret Decision

Last note for this week. My friend Arthur, a UFT leader, a former chapter leader, a former Executive Board member, got a threatening letter from… the UFT’s attorney. He wrote a parody of Mulgrew, a letter from Mulgrew to members, describing to members how he’d screwed them on health care, while boasting how the deal would benefit mayor Eric Adams.

Even though it was clearly a parody (including lines such as: “The quality of this health care may not be all that great, but on the bright side, cutting costs and services saves Eric Adams a shit ton of money.”), the UFT leadership accused Arthur of impersonating Mulgrew. Ridiculous.

More seriously, someone in the leadership decided to threaten legal action against a leader of this union. That’s a pretty extreme step. It did not come up at the Delegate Assembly – the highest decision making body of the UFT. It was not brought forward as a proposal at the Executive Board, which makes decisions between Delegate Assemblies, and refers proposals to the Assembly. It does not appear in the Administrative Committee (AdCom) minutes. Suing union members, or threatening suits, is a big deal – there is no way the lawyers decided to do this on their own.

So where was the decision taken? And by whom? And why is there no record? Secret committees and backroom decision-making should not be the norm in our union.

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