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When Unions Sell Out Their Members
New York City’s guaranteed medical coverage for every active and retired city worker has served as a major selling point over the past 57 years for people who would otherwise choose jobs with higher wages and lower stress. In a city where over 70,000 retirees survive on pensions of less than $1,500 a month, retired or disabled workers have relied upon the city’s promise to cover 100% of their medical expenses through Medicare and Medicare supplemental insurance.
But in 2021, then-Mayor Bill de Blasio made a pact with public sector unions to switch retirees from their public Medicare supplemental insurance to a privatized Medicare Advantage plan. Cited as a way to save the city hundreds of millions of dollars annually, the move meant that nearly a quarter of a million retired New York City employees — people who have risked their lives for fellow New Yorkers as firefighters, police officers, nurses, and teachers — would no longer be able to access effective or essential healthcare.
City retirees have sued the city to keep their current coverage. Attorney Jake Gardener, counsel to the retirees, sat down with Ravi to discuss the case, the politics behind the city’s relationship with its unions, and why preserving access to Medicare for current and future retirees in New York is essential, not just for New York City, but people all over the country.