York City Council has unanimously passed a bill to resume full
reimbursement of Medicare Part B premiums to retired city
employees. The bill,
Intro. 580-A, comes after 13 years of partial payment by the city,
which has meant a loss of as much as $1,288 per retiree.
victory follows a concerted campaign in support of the bill by the
PSC’s Retirees Chapter, along with DC 37, the UFT, and the
Council of Municipal Retiree Organizations of New York City (COMRO).
With the help of PSC Executive Director Deborah Bell, the
Retirees Chapter planned a postcard campaign targeting the City
Council. Two thousand
two hundred retirees were given postcards—New York City
residents were asked to send them to their local council members,
others to Council Speaker Peter Vallone.
10, Retirees Chapter Chair Irwin Yellowitz testified at a Council
hearing on the bill. “In
the City University, we have retirees of many years’ standing
whose pensions are fixed and modest,” Yellowitz said. “Restoration of full reimbursement would be an important
aid to each one of these persons.
Government, no less than any citizen, should honor its
Part A covers hospitalization costs for those over 65; Part B is
an optional insurance policy that covers doctor’s bills but
requires payment of an individual premium.
In 1968, the city pledged to reimburse retirees for the
cost of this premium, and continued to do so until 1988.
In that year, Mayor Ed Koch announced that the city was no
longer financially equipped to pay the full rate.
By 1992 the percentage of the premium covered by the city
had dropped to 91%, and by 2000, despite the city’s economic
recovery, it had decreased to 70%.
Intro. 580-A will increase the percentage to 85% ($38.70
per month) in 2001, and then restore it to 100% in every year
Council passed the bill without dissent on April 25. Mayor
Giuliani sent a message against the bill and will probably veto
it, according to Yellowitz. “All
the mayors since Koch have been opposed to it—they see it as
just another expense,” Yellowitz said.
“The key will be if the Council can override the veto,
and the prospects for that are good.”
Giuliani has until May 25 to make his decision.
Yellowitz, the success of the 13-year struggle shows that it pays
to be persistent. “This
year, with the election and the city’s surplus, the political
situation worked out in our favor,” he said.
“So even if you don’t achieve a victory immediately, if
you’re persistent you’ll get it.”