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  Public Employee Press

PEP Feb 2001
Table of Contents
  La Voz

Public Employee Press

Drive is on for full Medicare premium coverage

The union and the DC 37 Retirees Association have launched a grassroots lobbying drive to restore full city reimbursement for retirees’ Medicare Part B premiums.

The campaign backs a bill in the City Council that would save retirees nearly $200 a year.

“Years ago, the city used to provide full reimbursement, but in the 1980s, the Koch administration decided to renege on this long-standing commitment,” said Retirees Association President Alma C. Osborne.

“The reimbursement for Part B has steadily eroded since then, and now it covers only about 70 percent of the premium. We are hurting financially.”

Medicare is the basic health plan for city employees who are 65 years and older. The Part B premium covers physician services, hospital outpatient care, durable medical equipment and other services rendered outside hospitals.

In 2001, the premium is $50 a month. The premium is automatically deducted from the Social Security checks of retirees, who receive their annual partial reimbursement in the summer.

Leaders of the Retirees Association briefed members about the Medicare Part B initiative as they kicked off their campaign on Jan. 9 at the group’s first general membership meeting of the year.

“This is a real pocketbook issue for people on a fixed income,” said 1st Vice President Stuart Leibowitz, commenting on the campaign.

“For our members, the loss of the Medicare Part B premium money means going without a needed pair of shoes or a winter coat,” said Corresponding Secretary Norman O. Davis. “Full reimbursement would improve our standard of living.”

Medicare Part B reimbursement was one of the items on the union’s agenda at the annual DC 37 Legislative Conference in the fall. At the event, the DC 37 Political Action and Legislative Department distributed 8,000 post cards, which participants sent to City Council Speaker Peter F. Vallone and their council members.

“Now that the new council session is getting underway, we are preparing to step up the Medicare Part B campaign in a big way,” said Assistant Director Lillie Cariño-Higgins, DC 37’s City Council lobbyist.

Key issue for all members
“While retirees will be the immediate beneficiaries if the campaign is a success, this really is an issue that all DC 37 members should be concerned about,” said Eliot Seide, deputy administrator of DC 37.

“By participating in the campaign, city employees will be playing an active role in making their own health care costs less onerous when they retire.”

The lobbying effort will include mailings, phone banks, visits to council members, monitoring and participating in hearings, and perhaps rallies, said Ms. Cariño-Higgins.

The chief sponsor of Intro. 580, the bill to end the excessive premium burden on retirees, is City Council member and former SSEU Local 371 president Mary Pinkett.


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