Without question, Team de Blasio screwed up the shift of 250,000 retired city workers to a Medicare Advantage Plus health-care plan. But the answer isn’t to call the whole thing off; it’s to do it right.
The city needs to find savings in an expense that’s growing enormously, and it worked with the Municipal Labor Council to set up this shift. Unfortunately, it managed to award the $34 billion contract to an entity that lacks experience in running Medicare Advantage programs, and then did a horrible job of communicating with the beneficiaries.
Insurance giant Aetna — the city’s largest private Medicare insurer — is suing over what it calls a “tainted” selection process, rigged to favor the winning bidder. And thousands of retirees also filed suit, complaining the new plan costs them more for fewer benefits.
The retirees, used to zero co-pays, will be required to pay $15 co-pays for many routine services, including specialist visits, diagnostic tests and trips to urgent care. That will likely stand, even if other issues get fixed.
And the idea that the Labor Council lacked standing to negotiate the savings plan is absurd: It’s been doing such work since 1966.
Retirees may think they have a legal right to refuse any change, but the law doesn’t guarantee them the exact same coverage forever. The city even has every right to require them to pay nearly $200 a month to keep their old plans.
Again, the changeover has been a fiasco. The next mayor may well want to use the Aetna suit as a pretext to rebid the whole thing. But retiree health costs are growing faster than the city’s ability to pay them, and something has to give.
De Blasio did basically the right thing, but characteristically badly. The solution is to fix his mistakes, not to give up.
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