Health Benefits Changes: Samuelsen Surrenders Again! – A word from Roger Toussaint.


Here is what Samuelsen’s spin doctors just put out:

Aetna Wins the Contract to
Administer Local 100 Health Benefits

The right to unilaterally change health carriers was given to the MTA by the union in the 2002 contract negotiations. The MTA has once again exercised this contractual right to bring in a new health care provider.

Starting on January 1, 2017, Aetna will be responsible for administering all the different medical plans for Local 100 members and retirees at TA/OA/MTA Bus.

The fact that the Union itself has gone on record asserting that the MTA has such a right, now makes it all the more difficult to challenge and reverse. That is, short of an action against and naming them both!

For, Here is what the 2002-2005 contract ACTUALLY says:
“MTA/NYCT will assume the obligations of the HBT and maintain the current level of benefits subject to the following plan changes ( it goes on to list a series of improvements in the benefits – more on this later) …the health benefits currently provided by the Health Benefits Trust … shall be provided directly by the Authority.”

So read and compare for yourself. The language is the language and it is CONTROLLING, over any spin or interpretation. The clear, key and specific language is “shall be provided directly by the Authority”. Compare that with: “Aetna will be responsible for administering all the different medical plans for Local 100 members and retirees at TA/OA/MTA Bus.”

The contract language specifically bars any change over who “DIRECTLY” provides the benefits. The MTA specifically lacks the power to hand over the administration of our benefits.

But the Union itself has now gone on record asserting that the term “directly” has no meaning to them too!

In 2012 when it made changes in that regard, Samuelsen surrendered without as much as a whimper of protest. No meetings! No challenges! So naturally, the MTA went out to low-bid our health benefits again. Aetna must have found ways to cut costs to the bone. This is usually achieved by reducing the size and reach of the network that’s available to covered members, from regular doctors to specialists, to HMOs and PPOs, to hospitals, reducing the reimbursement offered to medical providers so they decline our coverage; streamlining and automating the administrative process – in short, all the things that affect, usually in an adverse manner, “the current level of benefits” as of 2002 with improvements, changes, which often violate the MTA’s obligation under the contract. That’s OUR HEALTH, and that of our FAMILIES!

In 2012, when the MTA not only changed providers but contracted out the administration of our benefits, it violated our contract and they got away with it. Thousands of members (the number 7,000(!!!) comes to mind) and their families were thrown out of coverage. The MTA deliberately used the change to have the new illegal administrators scrub and purge the list of covered members it provided them. The smaller the population covered, the more money saved. Thousands went without for months and had to find, reinvent and resubmit paperwork to establish the eligibility of their family members!

Which, is why its so vital for the Union to keep on top of the MTA and stay on top of them.

Aditionally, we had specifically PRESERVED the exact same challenge process which existed prior to 2002 – the ability to take any dispute between the parties over any proposed change to the Arbitrator. And in fact we strengthened the union’s hand with the creation of a Senior Labor/ Management Health Benefits Committee, made up of three equal-standing members from both sides, The TWU and the MTA, to police the process and which required quarterly meetings. I know for a fact that in the lead up the 2012 changes not ONE, not a single such meeting occurred. John Samuelsen’s way of giving the wink and the nod for the friendships he was cultivating at the time to get a contract in 2012 by pleasuring the bosses at the MTA? Of course, that contract didn’t come till two years later in 2014. But what does he care? He gets his health benefits from the International.

Finally, this was also the basis upon with we created the union’s Membership Services Dept, housed in large offices at 180 Livingston St, permanently staffed by 7 union-appointed reps to address any problems with medical care – from providers to the MTA clinics – all fully paid (50 hrs per week) by the MTA.

Samuelsen and his crew are so corrupt and so cynical, that they see more value in blaming me than in standing up to and fighting the MTA and lets them get away with rape and murder!

It should be remembered that unlike language which provides Health Benefits for the duration of the contract, the 2002 agreement specifically rejects that and makes the Benefit itself a DEFINED benefit, UNLIKE ANY OTHER UNION, which have to renegotiate the benefits each contract to account for constantly rising costs in this area. In fact under the Trust (HBT), as with EVERY other Trust, trustees are REQUIRED, by law, to maintain the solvency of the Trust by adjusting the benefits and their level to meet the money at hand. Under the law of the land, Trustees lack any power or right, not to do so. Which is why in 2002, prior to the contract, the NY State Insurance Board which governs over all Trusts in NY State, directed the Trustees of the HBT to produce a plan to cut benefits. The 2002 contract covered the existing and growing deficit which the Trust faced and converted the benefit to a Defined Benefit, “directly” administered by the MTA.

Once again, on a matter near and dear to each and every one of us and our families and, more threateningly to our retirees – John Samuelsen has surrendered, again, to the MTA.

Maybe that’s the plan to produce a raise next contract!


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– Roger Toussaint

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