UFT Healthcare cuts – Delegate Assembly – 12/13/23

  • Mulgrew made his much-touted report about healthcare – though not with many new details. We still don’t know the specifics of the two finalist bidders (Aetna vs. Emblem-GHI/United – not to be confused with our current GHI-CBP, which includes Blue Cross for hospital). There was no mention of the 10% price reduction these bidders bid to replace GHI-CBP—something which has been admitted, even recently at the UFT Executive Board—or the hundreds of millions of dollars UFT promised the City in the form of healthcare givebacks in the 2018 contract.
  • On healthcare, however, Mulgrew, did give us some interesting nuggets – some of which Unity members have falsely called out opposition as ‘fibbing’ about in the past, even despite hard evidence: (1) healthcare costs absolutely have to do with our raises; (2) we aren’t only interested in saving money ‘for the UFT and its welfare fund’ – we are saving the City money here too; and (3) we absolutely might lose providers we currently see.
  • For the first time in a while, maybe since the election, not a single opposition person was called on. This tends to happen when Unity needs to ‘win’ something – be it an election or a major public relations crisis. Healthcare is absolutely such a public relations crisis, so we can see why Mulgrew didn’t call on New Action in the question period, new motions period, or even in the current motions period. As an aside, I wrote the resolution “in support of migrant families” motivated by Mary Vacarro, though Unity watered it down a bit and substituted this version, which was still mostly a copy and paste of my original. It’s fine—I’m just glad it passed—though I am annoyed that it took until December to motivate a ‘fight the cuts’ resolution I wrote in September. I’m even more annoyed it was dulled by an absurd Unity co-resolution to only ‘mitigate the cuts to the greatest extent possible” – which was raised, inexplicably, for next month’s agenda. Temporally, this is illogical; especially with the length of time it takes for resos to make it to the floor, the cuts would likely already be permanent.  Indeed, Matt Driscoll’s resolution on the constitutional right to strike had been on the back burner for so long—at several points moved to the bottom of the agenda without warning or a vote—that it was finally taken off entirely for this week. It’s no longer pertinent, because we already lost that battle. The same will probably be true of the budget cuts. Go figure.
  • For the second time, Mulgrew called on a chapter leader whose chapter saw their principal ousted (in this case, stepped down). What was eerie about it, was right before she was called on, when Mulgrew was still answering someone else’s question, I saw Mulgrew motioning to her area letting her know she was going to get called on. Then, at the end, she made the exact same ‘will you come talk to our chapter’ line that the last CL this happened to make when she made the same speech at a DA a few months back. It’s obvious misuse of the question period, and as I’ve said before: while it is good—very good—to see chapters help organize the end of abusive or incompetent administrations, it is absurd propaganda for the UFT to pretend it’s the norm. Because the UFT is, institutionally, so opposed to having an actual program of going after abusive administrations, it’s left to the vagaries of who your superintendent is, how strong your principal is and will they go after members, how likely is it they will step down from embarrassment, are the parents also opposed to them too, etc. Don’t get me wrong, this chapter did the work. It takes that work too. But even when that work is done, if those other things aren’t also in line, you aren’t going to win. That’s why we need to admit it’s not the norm and grow an actual program for principals in need of improvement, like the one NAC used to help run before Unity squashed it. A CL shouldn’t have to be asking Mulgrew to come talk to her chapter after the battle is already won – but that’s literally the script.
  • We heard something about minor pension legislation that would help Tier 6ers, though apparently so minor Mulgrew expressed it was worth skipping – he thus didn’t go over it. New Action is soon to make a presentation with bombshell findings on just how bad Tier 6 really is – we aren’t talking thousands of dollars, we’re talking millions in losses for Tier 6 members vs. Tier 4 members.
  • We’re still seeing curriculum issues, but the only answer UFT will give is ‘it’s not so bad with Teacher Center.’ Actually, forced curriculum is something we absolutely need to be fighting – not just using to justify patronage jobs running PDs.

That’s enough summarizing I think. I’ll leave the rest for standalone articles. My informal minutes follow.

President’s Report

DA starts late at 4:20 PM

Someone asks for a FT pom pom hat, Mulgrew responds he’ll look into it (retro collection)

Last DA of 2023.

Healthcare report later that I was asked to do, so I’ll rush through the other things.

Nationally, there’s something that – in about a month, they’ll be talking about a special election in the state of NY. Big deal. Part of that special election – a certain former congressman has been voted out. DC  can’t get anything done? Got that done.

We’re assuming that the special election will happen after the February break, will need to do a lot of attention on that. See who is running. Usual process. If we do endorse, we’ll have to do a lot of work. Once decisions are made, they’ll kick in.

Last Monday, had labor breakfast Sen. Gillibrand was excellent. Let it rip, her frustrations. Quieter of the NY senators but has a good record on getting things done. For instance, the amendment to the Student Loan Forgiveness Act – saved a big number of money for our members.

State level: Next month….Fix Tier 6, class sizes, other bills we’re looking at. 3 new pieces of new legislation on pensions. Won’t waste much time on them. Small, but affect 1,000s of people. Big win for our trustees. Shouts out new treasurer, Victoria Lee.

Congestion pricing – now it’s real, came out with numbers. Looking at in terms of members working in that district as well as environmental impact. Yes, it diminishes pollution in the zone itself, but just moves it somewhere else. Looking at different options – you can guess what that means.

Last Thursday, in Syracuse, we are the first state that has a framework completely written by teachers in conjunction with industry on chip manufacturing. Huge number of jobs coming in this field. Proud of teachers at Edison and the Steam Center who did big lift on getting this written.

Budget cuts to the City. Finally, after a month of digging, it’s clear – there’s no budget crisis. It’s fabricated. We have numbers, show us yours. You can’t tell us the asylum seekers are costing X when you can’t verify X. But we can verify the surplus and reserves. It’s simple math. Just knock it off – there should be no budget cuts.

Asylum seekers: no child should be turned out into the street or continue to switch schools. That does further harm to the child. We are the ones forming relationships with these children that starts stabilizing them. We know that is the main piece we have to have to begin bringing them to the place they need to be especially in terms of mental health.

Safety: rash of attacks on students and teachers over issue in the middle east. Also safety issues in and outside of school buildings. Meetings. Yesterday we met with Chancellor, clear we know what needs to be taught. When we teach history, we try to be truthful, but let’s stop debate for a moment. What is the job of the school? To educate the child and build a good citizen, make sure they’re respectful, understand humanity—every individual human being–, hope is that this generation is better than the one that came before us. We have to be there. We can’t be pulled in all sorts of directions. Cultural sensitivity is taught. My generation failed. So this is the job of the school. When I meet with Muslim and Jewish leaders, I tell them I have to keep the kids safe first and that’s the job of the school. We want your child to be able to come to school and have a good day and not feel targeted. I’ve discussed this with the executive board, because the schools are being torn apart. I’m not debating this right now, because if something is tearing a school a part, that’s not what I got into education for. Our job is to help them be better than us.

Wanna thank all the CLs – we have now eclipsed 75% of chapters are now putting up consultation notes.

Healthcare: This is difficult stuff, not easy stuff. I thought we’d handle healthcare the way we always did. Bring a number, come back, we settle. That’s how healthcare used to work – then a couple of years into my term, saw that costs are escalating all over the place.

Strengthening Health Care Benefits at the negotiating table:

Won’t go over every slide – was done by the healthcare committee.

Main thing is strengthening healthcare, but costs are rising every year. Doing this, because people asked me to report. We know the endgame – what has happened to almost everyone, they end up paying more and more money for healthcare out of pocket. At the moment it became clear, we thought ‘we could scream – don’t touch my healthcare,’ and then when the costs got so bad the City has to do premiums, we’d get angry at the City. Great, easy way out – that’s what most unions have done. But I know we can do better. No road map, but we know what our goal is.

We have a negotiated acquisition for GHI-CBP. That’s your hospital and your medical. The other stuff is your welfare fund – prescription, dental, vision, hearing. Prescription is part of why we adopted strategies – we have the best welfare fund in the country. A lot of welfare funds deny all sorts of drugs. UFT hired pharmacists and ordered everything. Get better rebates. Constantly are looking at everything we spend on this. Is this job of union? Traditionally no.

Hidden cost behind self insured health plan. We are a self insured policy because we’re so large. As a self-insured program, it’s premium free, but is it cost free to us. No – everything we utilize comes back to us (the MLC) in one big bill. This affects us when we’re negotiating raises. At the end of the day, it’s our job to deal with these costs and the system that we’re stuck inside of. Average cost of hospitalization has gone up 100% in the last 12 years.

So, this is the system we worked in. At bottom, you have patients – patient is also the consumer, paying for the service, but nobody talks to the patient until it’s time to send them their bills. No transparency in costs, because hospitals have contracts that say they don’t have to tell you what their procedures cost. Same thing with health care. In the middle is the insurance company, they lost a lot of credibility. What happens is – became more about profit than healthcare. In this process, we aren’t at the table. This is a rigged system. We’ve avoided costs by doing certain things, but about 4 years ago our strategy changed.

Problem above is everything is hidden, and the things we did to save money were found out by hospitals, who found other ways to make money. Won’t go into all those details. They’re pretty aggressive and they’ve gotten worse. They aren’t happy we started getting into negotiations with insurance companies even though technically we don’t have the legal right to do it. One union went to only one hospital then saw all their rates jacked up. I’ll give you two ex that worked well: (1) specific contract with Sloan Kettering because wanted members to have care. What we found is Sloan does phenomenal job on cancer—recommend to anyone—but what people don’t know is that Memorial Sloan Kettering isn’t even the most expensive, despite best service. This is the problem with the healthcare system – some of the priciest I’d tell you not to even go to. We did the same thing with orthopedics. Outcomes phenomenal – been too many time, nothing but great outcomes. We should be able to know what we’re being charged.

Changing the paradigm – patients/MLC . We said we’re sick of meeting with you, so we’re telling the insurance companies until you talk to us. We have to be in the room – complete transparency. We’ll work with outside groups and use that to get the best outcomes at best prices for members. This is a lot of work, but is it the union’s work?

We’re not gonna wait for another thing – premiums then blame City Hall, but we can try this fight and have the possibility of a better outcome.

“Disrupting the System” – 2022. Plan proposals from insurance companies. MLC playing an active role. City cannot unilaterally make health care decisions; the MLC must agree on all changes.

Common sense goals in negotiations – insurance companies must guarantee transparency on costs and data. We get all information on all medical procedures. We told the insurance companies, we don’t care about the industry standard. Insurance companies must be true partners. We’re ok with managing the claim, that’s it. Don’t put in hidden fees from hidden contracts. We understand you’re a company, need you to manage the claims. UFT goes to the DR the most. Not a bad thing.

Putting safeguards in place – this is something that will drive them nuts. All sorts of nefarious procedures – upcoding. That’s what we’re talking about.

Where are we now? Two finalists have been identified. No matter who is picked, it doesn’t mean they have a contract to do business with us – it means they have the right to try and negotiate a contract with us.

Emblem/GHI with UnitedHealthcare and Aetna. Then this process comes out.

We’re now at the stage of negotiated acquisitions. Doing nothing for years is going to land us in a very bad decision.

If we do get to a contract, … know there are people here who will act like this is a horrible thing – it’s a load of crap. We’re going to keep our benefits and enhance them. When is the first time I said something about a war with the hospitals? 2011. I said there was a war coming.

We can beat a rigged system – not easy but we can.

Our path forward – we’ll only agree to a new plan if it’s equal to or better than our current quality premium free health care plan. If finalist falls short, we’ll have a war with  the contract. Pushing for a five year contract (right now it’s every year). We don’t want to cause significant disruption to the members. You wanna be able to see your doctor. How many people have a primary care physician? Not enough. We do a disruption analysis – when we check every doctor we’re looking at. But right now, we’re seeing very little disruption. But if we do get to a phase, our goal will be to get all care providers into the plan. We will push for enforceable accountability measures, including monthly data reviews, as well as financial repercussions for lack of transparency and bad faith practices.

You are not allowed to sue when you have to pay the penalty – they figured out how to rig the game about being sued, we figured out this.

Addressing current challenges – mental health must be expanded. Currently don’t have the ability to get the mental health coverage we currently need. Out of state medicare retirees, so if you retire, you’re under this plan, but right now if you’re in that category, there’s no doctors for miles. We are making priority for those members, so they’ll have more access to geographies where they live.

Can’t do this without the MLC. Why? Gives us access to a bigger number. We cover 1.3 million people and their families. This gives us a lot of leverage and buying power. Insurance companies can make all the money if they just manage the claims – which we’re fine to pay them for.

So, we leverage our size, can’t let up in our fight. Have seen a change since De Blasio left…He was more gung ho. City has regressed more into we don’t care – just want the savings. But this is about reducing costs and increasing better service. We’re very careful, especially when we’re uninsured, of having provisions so things don’t just go up. That’s why we have all the provisions.

We’re taking on an industry – they all hat eachother, but they don’t want to change their system, because they’ve all found ways to make more money to themselves.

Tough road, but proud of this road. That’s the presentation that I promised you on healthcare for December.

End of report at 5:05 PM.

LeRoy Barr’s Secretary Report: This coming Friday, UFT Kwanza event at Queens UFT. Come out and support. Following day, coalition for the homeless party. If you’ve never been, it’s a great event. Please stop by. This Saturday, Dec 16. Next Mayoral Control hearing is Monday, Dec. 8 at Thomas Edison high school. Make sure our voices are heard so we can put on checks and balances. Outside when you leave, you’ll see literature on our many campaigns – fix tier 6, right to shelter, etc.


We had 10th anniversary of Prose – we didn’t do it for charter schools. We made it a very simple thing. Bloomberg had just left, were still at height of teacher bashing. Deputy Mayor and I talked about and said just bet on the adults in the building – all your regs just get in the way, gotta trust the adults. Here we are 10 years and the PROSE schools are bigger than Boston school district. Great to see. Some said the voice in their school important to them.

Period starts at 5:09

Thomas Hasler, CL in Union Sq: Wonder about democratic structures of this body. My first DR told us he was the last one elected by the CLs. Want to hear why you think this system is better than cls electing our CLS for democratic structures.

Mulgrew: It’s a representative democracy – you are all represented. If we need to have a debate, let’s have a debate. Most of the time I hear we’re undemocratic because we don’t like how a vote goes – this is literally your jobs. You are all elected here. That’s the way a representative democracy is set up. You are the representative democracy – highest deliberating body. So when you say what is the UFT – that’s you – that’s what’s done is this body? People keep forgetting that – because people keep voting down? Last month someone said we have too much of a voice at the MLC. Insane to me. I know which way I vote – I care about representative democracy. That is in our constitution.

Nancy ? –, friend got observed, left them a letter. Her response was I will continue to give feedback. Also brought up there. She said she didn’t understand why there was pushback about a para being observed. But I’ve never been observed – many years as a para. Have heard this process for teachers – but paras?

Mulgrew looks over at Kaitlyn Kelly and gestures, indicating he’ll call at her next.

Mulgrew: We hear you and will take from there. Sounds ridiculous. What we’ll do is modify behavior or education for a short period of time at school.

Kaitlyn Kelly: CL in D30. Since we opened, there were uncertainties. Lived through botched observations. Plenty of conversations leading to no solutions. Things started to escalate. Et al grievance for union animus. Why we had the largest sign on in uft history. More than 50 percent people who signed on weren’t even tenured, decided to stand together. Today we’ve spent five new school days with a brand new principal. We are not the exception to the rule, accomplished because we had great support from DR, BR, families, parents. With that being said, can you meet with our members and get to know our story of union organizing?

Mulgrew: Happy for you all. Doesn’t happen without leadership inside of your building. Too many have been in your situation. Make us proud.

Jessica Abrera: Don’t have mandated curriculum – in MS – but know it’s coming from elementary and high school. Started trying them. Know we’re having a hard time with our observations, because it’s scripted – doesn’t match up with Danielson.

Mulgrew: Issues here are…the quality results of what we’ve done on K-5 has been varied. We have the survey results. Schools dealing with outside agencies, it isn’t working. Know administrators are getting scripts – it’s going to fail. But without, it’s been better – where skills. We’ll go in and have those conversations. Where should budget cuts start. Should hire more teachers to do this work.

JA: A lot of APPRs don’t go anywhere, but we’re literally being told what to do. Especially touch with ELLs.

Mulgrew: Sad part is – we have an administrator who doesn’t have to do this work in the first place. Takes information of school.

Calls time at 5:24.

Motion Period

Name missed: next month, Resolution on over-referral of migrant children to SPED. A lot of people coming to schools, inappropriate referral risk. Some exposed to trauma during migration. They spent months in the jungle – exposed to abuse, robberies. Some of them lack formal instruction. The families lack familiarity with the school system. Considering that and the language barriers. We know there are laws. Considering all that, advocate for time for students to develop language before referrals to sped.

Vote: Yeses 627, nos – 105; room 181 yes, 24 no (86%)

Lisa Highland (elementary exec board) – Resolution on Addressing Budget Cuts Addressing City Services. For next month’s agenda. Adams says migrants are opposing budget cuts, but issues with services, security understaffing, Adams talking about parents volunteering. Resolved that UFT work with parent groups to ensure impact on services is thoroughly examined and mitigated to the greatest extent possible.

Passes with 95%

Point of Order: Rue Ferrigno (SI) – motion on next month’s agenda to remove early voting from NYC public schools.

Motion to expand motion period for additional resolution for debate: 347-280. 104 yes, 90 no (55%)

Mulgrew: People are careful about time. Gut is reso would be fine – it is a problem. Not a reflection. Overwhelmingly this body votes no on extending everything.

Resolution Period

Resolution to Support Migrant Families:

Vacarro: Heard a lot about the migrant crisis and how it’s affecting our schools. In this resolution, we’re talking about the schools. I’ve visited the shelters, it’s an atrocity in those shelters. So with that being said, we have to support our migrant families. We have record money set aside for our schools. On top of that, we have hearing the testimony in budget hearings. There are 20 for-profit agencies charging ridiculous amounts of money for our migrant families. You’re hearing about skyrocketing IEPs, the psychological impact. We want to make sure we do whatever we can.

88% passes

Seth Gillman: Telling us that tracking, using subcentral, but not getting subs for teachers and paras. This resolution would make it easier for us to hire subs to alleviate some of these situations.

636 – 24 online

Charles DiBenedetto: Climate readiness. Don’t need to remind about Sep 29, when Adams kept schools open even though Noah himself couldn’t endure. Flooding everywhere – classes room. Then Adams says don’t worry, we’re gonna shelter in. Point is to shift process when necessary.

Yona Dika: Rise in support, hope you do too. Many of you know me as an avid boater – I don’t fantasize about boating through Brooklyn.

Speaker against online – turns out to be wrong button.

585-19/179-4 (97%).

Mulgrew: Like to call the author of resolutions, but see ? mark next to Alford.

Karen Alford: Yes, is for if the person who wrote isn’t here, so I’ll speak. Call on PEP to end high stakes testing on grades 3-5.

You always hear things like well-rounded students, caring for the whole child. When you create high stakes testing, it gets rid of that. Curriculum stops in January – hands on science. With that in mind, we know that our students’ mental health is fragile. We’re coming out of a pandemic – it’s not healthy, so I ask that you support this resolution, because we have to cease high stakes testing in grades 3-5.  

Leah Lin: Rise in support, think I’m the maker so thanks for making it. Thank you for speaking.

Mulgrew: Leah Lin is the maker – good name!

Vote: 532-41; 180-6 (94%)

Meeting adjourned.

Nick Bacon is a co-chairperson at New Action Caucus. He is also an elected member of the UFT executive board


  • Avatar
    Bennett Fischer

    It’s true that few new details were revealed about in-service healthcare, though there were some, such as a primary care physician requirement. It’s so weird and surreal. Mulgrew’s spiel is “Deja vu all over again” to quote the late, great Yogi Berra. Everything is “the same or better,” there is a “special deal” with HSS and Sloan Kettering, everyone’s doctors will accept the new plan. No mention whatsoever of how members will fund the 10% cut in the city’s contribution to their health benefits. Will it be through copays? Through premiums? Through denied care? Through a limited network of providers? 

    This guy never learns from his mistakes. He’s stuck in a Groundhog Day loop. See my notes below from the May 4, 2021 Healthcare Town Hall. You may recall that Mulgrew had to host that town hall as damage control after retirees found out about the Medicare Advantage scheme he hoped to keep below the radar. It’s all the same. Mulgrew’s propaganda hasn’t changed an iota in over two and a half years. He thinks that if he repeats his lies enough times they will come true. (Sounds like a familiar, golden toilet bowl demagogue, doesn’t it?) Despite all the pushback from members, all the losses in court, all the losses in the court of public opinion, all the losses in the City Council, all the well-documented debunking of his false claims, and the overwhelming opposition to his plans, Mulgrew’s propaganda remains unchanged. He talks about the avarice of hospitals and insurance companies and how that’s killing us, yet he refuses to work with the state legislature to make the New York Health Act a workable reality (in defiance of resolutions passed by the union’s Delegate Assembly). The poor fellow is on auto-pilot, his cult followers are swilling champagne in first-class, and everyone else is packed in economy class, holding on for dear life as the plane veers out of control.

    My notes from Mulgrew’s 5/4/21 Healthcare Town Hall:

    He apologized.
    Says MLC is getting more aggressive in healthcare negotiations.
    Says Bloomberg’s position was to do nothing and hope that we choked on our healthcare costs.
    He said the current round of agreed upon savings have already been achieved. [I didn’t get that. How can that be?]
    Tooted his horn. Says he is super-tough; playing hardball with hospitals.
    Wants to re-brand. [Gosh does he ever want to re-brand!] Hates the name Medicare Advantage. This is not Medicare Advantage as in an “individual market plan.” This is a Medicare Advantage group plan.
    This is not an off-the-shelf plan; this is a customized plan.
    Something about the city not getting federal reimbursements now, but will with new plan? [Didn’t get this.]
    We’ve gotta do something; we can’t do nothing.
    The process is not finished. We are trying to negotiate equal care to what we have now. If that cannot be achieved, we will say NO.
    UFT is smart.
    Where is the profit? Why would private insurers want our business? Says government is all too happy to let private managers take stuff off their hands. Says insurers are incentivized by wanting to maintain a good rating. [??? I don’t get how that works at all.]
    Promises no disruption of service.
    This is not old Medicare Advantage; this is new group Medicare Advantage.
    Cannot get into negotiation details but will come back to retirees before MLC vote is taken.
    Yes, this switch would effectively kill City-funded supplemental insurance [?].
    Because there was an MLC meeting last night, he is now free to tell us more.
    Proposes two standing committees on healthcare – one for retirees, one for in-service.
    Thanks for the emails. Our questions really helped him bring more questions to the table during negotiations.
    Question period.
    Q: Got a timeline for this? A: No.
    Q: Will small healthcare facilities accept this plan. A: Yes.
    Promises: When the current bidders come back to us, and the arbitrator, with all our questions answered, he will come back to us with side-by-side plan specifics.
    Q: IRMAA reimbursements? A: Murphy – Yes, IRMAA reimbursements stay the same.
    Q: What about cost of City’s Senior Care if we don’t opt-in? A: The cost would rise to approximately $170 per month. [Per person?]
    Q: Will there be a purchase option for survivors? A: Excellent question. I will bring that to negotiations.
    Promises: New plan will actually give us more coverage than we currently have.
    Q: Me – What is to stop doctors who currently take traditional Medicare from not accepting our new plan? A: Why would they do that? Yes, that would be a problem. If a lot of doctors did that then we would have to seek some sort of legislative [?] remedy. [I didn’t get the answer at all. Maybe he didn’t get the question.]
    Q: Will Medicare deductibles go up? A: That is federal government; out of our hands.

    • Nick Bacon
      Nick Bacon

      This: “The poor fellow is on auto-pilot, his cult followers are swilling champagne in first-class, and everyone else is packed in economy class, holding on for dear life as the plane veers out of control.”

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