The fine print
Bridge to Medicare was a landmark deal for the New York State Nurses' Association. It was the union's first health plan for retirees within the Hospital Alliance, which includes New York-Presbyterian's Columbia University Medical Center, Mount Sinai Hospital, Mount Sinai West and Mount Sinai Morningside.
Starting in 2019, the four-year effort called for the hospitals to provide $4 million a year for retirees and their dependents to stay on their union health plan. Nurses ages 60 to 65 who had worked at least 20 years at one of the hospitals were eligible. The agreement touted continued coverage until the employee became Medicare eligible.
But in the fine print was a stipulation that if the cost of coverage exceeded $4 million a year, the early retirees could be responsible for their premiums.
Kaleda said union officials were notified last summer that there was a money issue. In the fall they asked the Hospital Alliance if it could contribute more money, without success, she recalled.
Linden Zakula, a spokesman for the Hospital Alliance, said it made clear during the original negotiations that the money "would likely not be enough" but declined to share its cost projections.
Jones said it was not until this past March that the union reported a change of plans.
The union presented its new deal. There were no details on what would happen to the retirees' coverage in 2022; the union's next collective-bargaining agreement with the Hospital Alliance does not start until 2023. In the chat section of one of the Zoom calls about the new deal, dozens of retirees vented their frustration, a person on the calls told Crain's. Several asked if they could come out of retirement. One person said they wanted to sue for breach of contract.
Union members approved the plan, but the retirees were not eligible to vote.
Kaleda said Bridge to Medicare never guaranteed retirees coverage until they turned 65—only until the money ran out. Nurses said that was not communicated.