BRONX, N.Y. – U.S. Representative Ritchie Torres (NY-15) today joined local healthcare advocates and affected seniors and public sector retirees to announce he will be introducing new legislation – the “Right to Medicare Act” – aimed at protecting the rights of seniors to access traditional Medicare coverage.
It comes as a response to New York City government, the largest municipal employer in the country, which continues to attempt to involuntarily kick approximately 250,000 public sector retirees off the traditional Medicare plans they worked decades to secure and were promised and onto privately run healthcare insurance plans through Medicare Advantage.
“There is no topic as important to me than the defense of Medicare,” said U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres (NY 15). “There is no set of people to whom we owe a greater debt than our senior citizens. The two programs that enable our seniors to lead decent and dignified lives are Medicare and Social Security – both of which must be protected at all costs. The United States is the wealthiest country in the history of the world, and with great wealth comes great responsibility. For me, there is no greater responsibility than the protection of healthcare to those in greatest need – our senior citizens. This is a public good for our senior citizens that must be protected from privatization.”
The “Right to Medicare Act” would prohibit employers, both public and private, from involuntarily forcing seniors to shift away from traditional Medicare coverage in favor of Medicare Advantage and would amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to require employers to offer an opt-in option for seniors who might want change from traditional Medicare to Medicare Advantage.
The legislation would also put Congress on the record as affirming that all U.S. seniors have a right to enroll in traditional Medicare that cannot be taken away and that they have a right to choose for themselves between traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage.
“No one should be forced into health plans provided by private companies which maximize their profits by limiting the choice of doctors and imposing pre-approval requirements,” said Sue Ellen Dodell, a NYC retiree and the Political Action Director for the NYC Organization of Public Service Retirees. “Auto enrollment of retirees into Medicare Advantage plans is not just happening in New York City. It is happening throughout the country because of current federal law. We are grateful for Congressman Torres’s support for City retirees who want to retain the choice of traditional Medicare. We look forward to working with him on his legislation and to continue to fight Medicare privatization in all its forms.”
“I was promised by the City that when I retired, I would have Medicare and Medigap coverage that would cover my medical costs,” said Arnold Gottfried of Riverdale, a retired high school English teacher of 31 years. “I was promised that I would have freedom of choice if I wanted to switch to another plan. This was the promise, the covenant, given to me and to 250,000 City workers by our unions and the City. To no longer fulfill that promise would be a betrayal. Let us, the retirees of NYC, have the right to keep what we have, and have the option, if we wish, to choose an alternative plan. But always, always, keep the promise and honor the covenant. Thank you, Congressman Torres, for standing up for us.”