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City slippery on Medicare



To the editor:

The hearing in State Supreme Court Appellate Division on the city’s appeal of the injunction blocking retirees from being forced into a Medicare Advantage plan (“City attorney, judge joust on Medicare matter,” this issue) was a short proceeding. 

But pointed questions by two associate justices exposed the city attorney’s astonishing unawareness of basic facts of paramount importance to myself and fellow retirees. Richard Dearing, the city’s chief appellate attorney, misstated that the health-care savings from a switch to Medicare Advantage were “fungible” and could be added to the general revenues. He later backtracked, conceding that the dollars would actually be earmarked for the Health Insurance Premium Stabilization Fund.

Mr. Dearing stepped in it again by defensively stating — twice! — that the HISF was not a “slush fund.” Perhaps he had no knowledge that the fund had been improperly used as a piggy bank to offset city expenses. Two examples: in 2009, an ongoing, annual payment of $112 million was agreed to, primarily to reduce layoffs. In 2014, a one- time $1 billion payment was made to the city from the HISF to pay for UFT raises.

Mr. Dearing couldn’t even answer whether the MLC included retirees when their health benefits were being negotiated. (No, they weren’t.)

Retirees filled the courtroom, watched the proceedings on a basement room monitor and from outside in the cold on their smartphones. The large turnout was a testament to how much is at stake. 

For over 50 years, the city has clearly and unambiguously promised retirees — in both written documents and verbal communications — that when they retired and became Medicare-eligible, it would provide and pay for Medicare Supplemental insurance.

It speaks volumes that the city did not submit a single document to refute the numerous affidavits from retirees attesting to promises made.

Harry Weiner


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