WMH Secures Preliminary Injunction Halting City’s Plan to Strip New York City Retirees of Promised Medicare Benefits

Walden Macht & Haran LLP

NEW YORKJuly 7, 2023  — Today, the New York County Supreme Court issued a preliminary injunction stopping the City from forcing a quarter-million elderly and disabled retirees off of their longstanding Medicare insurance and onto an inferior type of insurance called “Medicare Advantage.”  Unlike Medicare—a public program that has protected City retirees for the past 57 years—the City’s new Aetna Medicare Advantage plan is a private, for-profit endeavor that would limit retirees’ access to their medical providers, prevent retirees from receiving care prescribed by their doctors unless Aetna deemed it “medically necessary,” and expose retirees to increased healthcare costs.

Supreme Court Justice Lyle E. Frank held that the retirees “have shown by clear and convincing evidence” that implementation of the new Aetna Medicare Advantage plan would likely violate their rights in numerous ways.  Justice Frank also ruled that “should this plan go forward, irreparable harm would result” to countless retirees.

The Court’s ruling endorses the retirees’ claim that, since the 1960s, the City has guaranteed every active and retired City worker—by statute and through written and verbal promises—that when they became elderly or disabled, they would be entitled to City-funded healthcare through a combination of Medicare plus Medicare “supplemental” insurance, which covers healthcare expenses that Medicare does not.  The ruling also endorses various other claims asserted by the retirees and states that implementation of the City’s new healthcare plan would be “arbitrary and capricious.”

To view the decision, see here.

Jake Gardener, a partner at Walden Macht & Haran LLP, counsel to the retirees, says, “We are grateful to Justice Frank for recognizing the numerous ways in which the health and healthcare rights of retired City workers would be imperiled by the City’s new Medicare Advantage plan.  Because of Justice Frank’s well-reasoned decision, hundreds of thousands of senior citizens and disabled first responders will be able to continue receiving the medical care they desperately need and to which they are entitled.”

Marianne Pizzitola, President of the New York City Organization of Public Service Retirees, one of the lead plaintiffs, states, “This is now the third time in the last two years that courts have had to step in and stop the City from violating retirees’ healthcare rights.  We call on the City and the Municipal Labor Committee to end their ruthless and unlawful campaign to deprive retired municipal workers of the healthcare benefits they earned.”

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