City retirees won a crucial lawsuit against the city on Friday to keep their traditional healthcare coverage plans.

“The respondents are permanently enjoined from requiring any city retirees, and their dependents from being removed from their current health insurance plans and from being required to either enroll in Aetna Medicare Advantage Plan or seek their own health coverage,” read Judge Lyle Frank’s ruling.

The ruling comes just months after the city had attempted to switch retirees from their traditional Medicare to a privatized Medicare Advantage Plan from Aetna.

What You Need To Know

  • On Friday, a judge ruled against the city plan to switch municipal workers from a traditional Medicare plan to a private health insurance

  • Earlier this year, the city announced a change in healthcare coverage for thousands of retirees arguing it saved the city millions and had better benefits

  • Retirees sued the city claiming the new plan was forced on them and limited the network of doctor's and specialists

  • The city plans to appeal the ruling

The city had argued the new plan came with better benefits, like a cap on out-of-pocket costs, fitness programs and transportation. Officials also said the move would save the city millions of dollars.

City officials plan to fight the ruling. A City Hall spokesperson in a statement said: “We are extremely disappointed in this ruling, and intend to appeal. This decision only creates confusion and uncertainty among our retirees.”

Friday’s ruling is the culmination of protests from retirees against the plan that was supported and brokered with the city’s largest municipal union DC 37.

President Harry Garrido publicly backed the plan and tried to quell any opposition to it, including a City Council bill that would preserve traditional Medicare for retirees.

Retirees argued that the new plan would put them at risk of losing their longtime doctors and specialists, increase costs and complicate doctor’s visits and tests.

“There is a limited network of doctors in Medicare advantage plan and a lot of doctors, especially high quality doctors, won’t accept Medicare advantage or the Aetna medicare advantage plan,” Jake Gardener, counsel retirees, said.

He detailed the health concerns many retirees had about the new plan.

“If you’re dealing with a life threatening condition and you depend on care from your doctor and that doctor won’t accept this Aetna medication plan, you will either have to pay out of pocket, which is way too expensive for most retirees, or your going to have to change doctors, which is dangerous,” Gardener said.  

Gardener said that retirees are open to other healthcare plan options but don’t want to be forced into any single plan.

Meanwhile, local officials applauded the decision.

“Today’s ruling is a big win for retirees who have worked hard for the city for decades and many of whom who already have healthcare providers are on this plan,” Lander said on Friday.

He noted that savings could be achieved, but with compromise.

“Obviously, the cost issue is a very real one. The healthcare costs are growing for active employees, New York City employees and for retirees. And it’s going to be critical now that everybody sits down together and comes up with some strategies for controlling healthcare costs,” Lander added.

Today’s decision affects about 250,000 municipal retirees.