Unpacking Mulgrew’s Concession of ‘Mulgrewcare’

Earlier today, Michael Mulgrew ‘conceded’ defeat on ‘Mulgrewcare’ after a judge sided with the courageous group of retirees, including key UFC activists, who fought the plan to either go into Medicare Advantage or pay hefty fees totaling thousands of dollars a year to stay on actual Medicare. The full legal decision appeared to give the option for NYC to simply only offer the ‘Mulgrewcare’ plan, but Mulgrew seems to be going in the other direction, as shown in his statement below:

“We believe in the NYC Medicare Advantage Plus plan and the excellent range of benefits it would have provided our retirees. However, the judge’s recent decision will effectively eliminate the savings the plan would have produced and that would have been re-invested in health benefits for our members.

While the NYC Medicare Advantage Plus plan is sound, the program has suffered from serious implementation problems and poor legal arguments, particularly on the part of the city.

Our retirees deserve better. Given the judge’s order, the UFT is withdrawing its support for starting the NYC Medicare Advantage Plus plan on April 1, 2022, and will urge the Municipal Labor Committee to suspend its efforts to begin the program until all the implementation and legal issues are resolved.

There’s a lot here, so let’s ‘do the work’ to unpack it.

  1. Mulgrew is doubling down on his claim that ‘Mulgrewcare’ was a good thing, even as the main aspect that gave it ‘cost savings’ was prior authorizations that would have inevitably led to delayed or denied care. That’s one of the primary reasons that 45,000 retirees decided to opt out. And, because so many of them opted out, the legal decision here (which would have prevented NYC from collecting fees from them for staying on original Medicare) basically nullified any cost savings.
  2. In the final sentence, Mulgrew notes that he will “urge the Municipal Labor Committee to suspend its efforts to begin the program until all the implementation and legal issues are resolved.” Note the words ‘suspend’ and ‘until…legal issues are resolved.’ This implies that Mulgrew is open to throwing retirees under the bus to get ‘Mulgrewcare’ again if he gets the chance. But there’s a reason for this. Where else is he going to get the money he needed for the stabilization fund?
  3. Mulgrew claims that the savings from the plan would have been “re-invested in health benefits for our members,” which seems nonsensical, since the savings came from reducing the quality of retiree health benefits. However, this is actually an important point. Remember that UFT was using Medicare Advantage as a way to save the city $600 million. Those savings would have gone into our ‘stabilization fund.’ Without that money there, Mulgrew is likely going to be pressured to make up the lost dough by further reducing care for in-service members. That, or he’s going to have to sacrifice on raises in the next contract, despite record inflation. Of course, that’s precisely why he should have sought to increase the stabilization fund through external means – not by robbing Peter (retirees) to pay Paul (in-service members).

Many of us in New Action and UFC have been trying to sound the alarm that Mulgrew throwing retirees under the bus was also a warning sign for changes to in-service healthcare. With that $600 million lost, I’d say that risk just went up 1000-fold. This is 100% on the Unity-led UFT for trying to rob retirees to fund in-service gains instead of earnestly pursuing the city to raise the funds needed to pay teachers AND retirees what they deserve.

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