The cash-strapped MTA canceled medical benefits for scores of its workers’ spouses and children without letting them know, angry transit employees told amNewYork.
After an outside auditor, seeking to save big bucks for the agency, sent letters to transit employees and retirees asking for documents proving dependents should keep their insurance, the MTA dropped at least 4,300 of them, claiming they didn’t qualify.
But several employees said their dependents were dropped even after sending in the paperwork several times, while others said they never got the letters at all.
Regardless, many learned the hard way their loved ones were cut off. When retired bus driver Robert Kraemer went to fill a prescription in May for his wife, Susan, who was sick in the hospital, he was denied.
“She’s not covered,” he said the pharmacist told him. “She hasn’t been covered since January.
“I sent in the papers and as far as I knew, we were covered,” said Kraemer, 61, of City Island. Instead, they were left with a $15,000 hospital bill, and thousands more in other medical bills since.
Susan was finally reinstated to the insurance plan last month, but the Kraemers were left with more than $26,000 in medical bills that accrued while she wasn’t on the policy. Robert said he still has no idea if they’ll be reimbursed for the debt they’re on the hook for.
“It’s not money I have,” he said.
“The MTA screwed up,” Kraemer said. “I really blame the audit company that didn’t tell us we were taken off or anything.”
The agency expects to save more than $5.8 million annually for the next five years by reducing insurance coverage, according to its budget.
Aon Hewett, the firm which was paid nearly $1 million to do the audit for the MTA, didn’t return a call for comment.
The Transport Workers Union is taking the MTA to court over what they say is a botched audit.
“There’s nothing wrong with a company having an audit to save money, but the way [the MTA] handled it was a disaster,” a union official said. He estimates there are still hundreds of employees who have no idea they’re spouses and children no longer have health insurance.
But the MTA maintains that it’s the employees’ fault if their dependents were cut off from benefits.
“New York City Transit went above and beyond to notify employees of this change in policy,” transit spokesman Charles Seaton said, adding that the MTA tried to reach everyone using several different methods, including visiting employees on the job.
“Employees are required to keep the Authority informed of the current address,” he said.
Subway conductor Mark Williams was also left high and dry. Even after sending in a marriage license, tax forms, birth certificates, social security cards and a copy of his lease several times, Williams’s 11-year-old step-daughter, Kayla, and pregnant wife, Dana, were dropped from his insurance policy in January.
“We didn’t even know she was dropped until the hospital called us,” Williams, 42, said of his wife.
“We had to cancel doctor appointments because we couldn’t afford it,” Williams, of the Bronx, added. “Nobody has thousands of dollars to just pay a bill and hope they pay it back.”