Adams administration to bring Medicare Advantage push before N.Y.’s top court

NEW YORK — Mayor Adams’ legal team is set to ask New York’s highest court to clear the way for his administration’s push to enroll some 250,000 retired city workers in a controversial Medicare Advantage plan, the New York Daily News has learned.

Nicholas Paolucci, a spokesman for Adams’ Law Department, confirmed Tuesday that the administration will ask the State Court of Appeals to intervene in the long-running effort to make Advantage, a privatized version of traditional Medicare, the only city-subsidized health insurance plan available to municipal retirees.

The confirmation from Paolucci came after the Appellate Division of the state Supreme Court earlier in the day upheld a ruling issued by Manhattan Justice Lyle Frank last year that first permanently blocked Adams’ administration from enacting its Advantage plan. Frank’s ruling found the mayor’s attempt to strip city retirees of their current access to a subsidized traditional Medicare plan violates local administrative law.

In order to get the State Court of Appeals to even consider a request to overturn the latest ruling, though, Adams’ administration must file a so-called motion for “leave.” As New York’s highest legal venue, the state Court of Appeals could reject such a motion and not consider the case at all, which would leave Frank’s ruling in place and deal a final blow to the mayor’s Advantage effort.

Paolucci said the administration will move ahead with filing a motion for leave, as it believes an Advantage plan would both improve health benefits for retired municipal workers and save the city money.

“The city’s plan, which was negotiated closely with and supported by the Municipal Labor Committee, would improve upon retirees’ current plans and save $600 million annually,” Paolucci said, referring to the umbrella group representing most of the city’s public sector unions. “This is particularly important at a time when we are already facing significant fiscal and economic challenges.”

The battle over Medicare Advantage started shortly after Adams took office when a group of retired cops, firefighters and other municipal workers filed a class action lawsuit seeking to prevent the mayor from shifting them into Advantage.

The group, NYC Organization of Public Service Retirees, has contended Advantage would water down their benefits, in part due to convoluted preauthorization processes required by the private insurance providers administering Advantage plans. The group has pointed to federal studies finding Advantage plan holders can be denied “medically necessary” care due to such preauthorization protocols.

Marianne Pizzitola, a retired FDNY EMT who’s president of the retiree group, said she’s disappointed Adams’ administration will continue its Advantage push even after the latest legal setback, but vowed to keep fighting.

“If he wants to take that on, I ain’t going nowhere,” she said of the planned State Court of Appeals move. “The larger question should be: After everything we have put out there, factually cited and sourced on how forcing people onto [Advantage] will harm them, that he is still hell-bent on forcing this plan onto retired civil servants.”