What's the Advantage of Mulgrewcare Advantage?

A riff on the April RTC meeting


The April 16th RTC meeting was interesting indeed. First of all, it was finally revealed in a Unity brochure that Tom Murphy will be running for RTC chapter leader again. He's done such a great job of supporting Mulgrew's give away of retiree health benefits that he's being awarded the Aetna-Mulgrew Seal of Approval®.

According to the brochure, Murphy is running on a platform of rejecting incivility. Murphy thinks that the trouble with the RTC is that too many of its members are angry with him. He thinks that expressing anger at him for his position on healthcare is uncivil. He seems to think that giving away our health benefits to private insurance companies - whose plans suck in comparison to what we have now - is what civility is truly about.

Michael Mulgrew spoke at the RTC meeting. I asked him why, in the face of three years of overwhelming opposition from RTC members, consistent rulings against him in the NY State Courts, and the erosion of the trust he once had with UFT membership, he doesn't simply make an about-face and begin protecting our health benefits like he ought to?

He told us that he won't do that because he's smarter than us, because he knows what's best for us. He's spoken with lawyers, and with insurance companies, and they have promised him that they will put extra special Flavor Nuggets™ into the Mulgrewcare Advantage cookie dough. Mulgrewcare will have a unique and amazing taste, like no other health plan on the planet. It will be as yummy as marzipan dragonflies and as dazzling as the sparkle of fairy dust on the tip of a unicorn's horn. Pinky-swear to the sky.

The flavor will last for the length of the contract, five years. Then all bets are off. And in the meantime, Mulgrew will create a giant bureaucracy within the UFT. (Yes, he really said that!) A bureaucracy to ensure that Aetna honors the Mulgrewcare deal. A vast and intricate bureaucracy. A beautiful bureaucracy. A perfect bureaucracy, that will include doctors, pharmacists, UFT staffers, and even lawyers - maybe even Mike Sill - who will go over every, single, health claim that every, single, UFT retiree generates. It will be awesome. It will be the most amazing patronage bureaucracy on Earth.

Michael doesn't seem to grasp - or maybe he grasps all too well - that our much-loved, traditional Medicare & GHI Senior Care plan, doesn't require a UFT bureaucracy. The US Government's Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services already does all that bureaucracy stuff. It does it very well, with much lower administrative costs than insurance companies charge, and they do a much better job at it than any single union, even the UFT, can ever hope to do. And it does it for free.

Which is why it was surreal when RTC member, Sarah Shapiro, asked Mulgrew why the UFT Welfare Fund is holding onto $840M in accumulated assets, rather than spending them to improve our members' horribly inadequate dental benefits?

Mulgrew kept a straight face while he told Sarah that the Welfare Fund is holding on to that money to pay for expensive drugs that have not even been invented yet! (I did not make that up.) And to pay for expensive weight loss drugs, like Ozempic, that UFT members, in Mulgrew's view, are surely going to be gobbling down like popcorn. Apparently Mulgrew sees no shame, nor perceives any incivility, in body shaming UFT members - and getting exactly zero laughs - for a tasteless joke at an RTC meeting. Just as he perceives no incivility - and gets no laughs - for raiding a billion dollars from the Health Stabilization Fund and selling off our healthcare.

Mulgrew also doesn't seem to understand that the UFT doesn't pay a penny for retiree medications, so what is he even talking about? (Most retirees pay for a Medicare Part D drug plan administered by Emblem Health.)

Sarah told me that there was going to be a second part to her question, but Tom Murphy jumped in to cut her off before she could finish asking it. You see, according to the UFT Welfare Fund tax returns, published on the Pro Publica website, the UFT Welfare Fund pays Michael Mulgrew $400,000 a year in "related compensation." It also pays RTC Chapter leader Tom Murphy, $70,000 a year in "related compensation." Nice gig if you can get it, right? Sarah wanted to ask what that "related compensation" pays for. And why is money being spent on that, rather than on crowns and implants for union members? She and the chapter never got to hear the answer to that silenced question.

Since the Welfare Fund is not using its enormous assets to improve our health benefits, I can only assume that it's holding onto that money to pay for the beautiful new UFT bureaucracy that Mulgrew so adoringly gushes about. Just think how gloriously ginormous the Welfare Fund will be when it has a whole, new, oversite bureaucracy to staff with Unity patronage professionals! Even Ozempic won't be able to shrink that beast.

In Mulgrew's eyes, that's the real advantage of Mulgrewcare Advantage.

Bennett Fischer is running for RTC Chapter Leader on the Retiree Advocate slate. If you are a UFT retiree, check the box for Retiree Advocate on the ballot you will receive in May. Bring sanity and integrity back to the UFT Retired Teachers Chapter.