The UFT is again acting with disdain towards its neediest members. First, at an autumn session of the delegate assembly in 2015, Unity curbed discussion on whether to loan retro pay to those shut out from receiving it — members on sick or family leave — leaving its most financially needy members on more unstable footing than everybody else. Now, the UFT has negotiated to increase medical copays for its neediest members — those in need of specialists, diagnostic tests, and emergency room visits — while keeping primary care copays the same for everybody else.
According to the Citizens Budget Commission: History suggests that the most medically needy City employees will ultimately bear the burden. When the excess [healthcare] costs … began to exceed $30 million in 1989, benefits were redesigned to shift costs onto users: deductibles were increased for some services and new deductibles were imposed for emergency room visits and other services. The practice of increasing deductibles for services used by those with medical needs – rather than by implementing premium-sharing for all employees – has continued. Most recently, in 2009 … the City implemented $150 million in savings, mostly from increased deductibles for hospital emergency room visits, in-patient facility admissions, and ambulatory surgery.
Increasing copays for emergency room visits is classic neoliberal exploitation of those in an emergency situation. The UFT writes, “Our data show that some members are over-utilizing hospital emergency rooms. To discourage the use of ERs when a doctor’s visit would suffice, the copay for hospital-based emergency-room visits will increase from $50 to $150.” The UFT is claiming that its members are irresponsibly going to the ER, comparing us to students who go to the nurse when they get a paper cut. Our response to the UFT: we are adults, not children!