NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - There's a ray of hope for hundreds of thousands of retired city workers who suddenly had their health benefits changed because of what they call a bait-and-switch deal between Mayor Bill de Blasio and the unions.
They claim they're being forced to accept an inferior and costly plan that could bankrupt them in their golden years.
As CBS2's Marcia Kramer reports, if the next mayor has his way, an army of retired teachers, cops, correction officers and other former city employees will get help in keeping the health benefits they were promised when they went to work for the city.
Both men vying to replace de Blasio say the city needs to honor its pact with its employees, who took often low paying jobs because the benefits were so good.
"You don't become a civil servant to become a billionaire. You become a civil servant to have stable health care, a stable pension, and a stable life. And we can not destabilize it after they retire," Democratic mayoral candidate Eric Adams said.
Adams said if he wins the election, he will review the controversial deal worked out by de Blasio and the unions to save $600 million with a massive change to the health insurance offered to 250,000 retirees.
People like former NYCHA employee Bill Shenton and his wife Susan, who are faced with the choice of accepting the city's new plan - Medicare Advantage Plus - or opting out to maintain their existing insurance, which will cost them an extra $200 a month each.
"I feel that it's a betrayal," Shenton said. "We were told this would be for life, that we'd have the same insurance we had when we were working, and it would cover our family. And now it's being taken back from us."
The Shentons say they have to pay to stay in the old plan because the new one would cover only a fraction of the medicines Susan takes for chronic lung disease. One drug alone costs $130,000 a year.
"Many people don't realize I'm a retiree," Adams said.
As a retired cop, the issue is personal for Adams.
"Can you undo this? This is really a very, very important problem," Kramer asked.
"Yes. I have to really look at it and see what are my powers if I'm fortunate to be the mayor of reversing, or seeing how we don't destabilize retirees. Nothing is more frightening to a retiree that are starting to go through health care crises," Adams said.
"You could definitely call it a bait-and-switch. You're promised one thing, you get priority health care, the doctor of your choice, the medicine of your choice, the therapy of your choice, the specialist of your choice. And now, all of a sudden, you're no longer given that promise. That is breaking your word," said Republican mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa.
Sliwa says he would also seek to undo the deal if he replaces de Blasio.
"It's not like, all of a sudden, there's no money in the system. You promised them. Let's come up with the money," Sliwa said. "Let's start eliminating all of the de Blasio programs that were not effective or didn't exist and spend the money where promised the people that they would have health care."
"I'd like to say to the mayor he might be looking out for the bottom line, but he's not looking out for the people," Susan Shenton said.
A group of retirees has filed suit in Manhattan supreme court to stop the plan from going through. They say they are not legally represented by the unions who negotiated the deal.
The Aetna insurance company is also challenging the move, saying the company hired by the city was an unqualified bidder.
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