Friday, January 31, 2014

Why won't the New York City Comptroller's Office give Bhairavi Desai's benefit plan the go-ahead (registration) and why if the plan is something that John Liu or Scott Stringer did not want to be associated with how come deBlasio is letting the TLC steal the drivers' tips anyhow?

Eugene Weixel
3:39 PM (37 minutes ago)
to abenferHeathertipsrbrookslappinachapliraycbxnyNYCrharshbargerBhairavi
Bhairavi you are "still registering" a plan that was supposed to start in the middle of November. What is the hold-up? Why didn't John Liu register this deal? Why hadn't Scott Stringer registered this deal?
Where is the disability plan? Who audits?
Is this email to be my Obamacare Navigation Service that I have been paying for for three months now??
Have all drivers got this email?
I dare you to show your face to the drivers at the fleet garages and airport lots to take questions.

Bhairavi Desai via 
Jan 23 (7 days ago)
to me

                             New York Taxi Workers Alliance
logoUnion of NYC Taxi Drivers!
AFL-CIO, NYC CLC, NYS AFL-CIO, Intl. Transport Workers' Federation 
250 Fifth Avenue, Suite 310  New York, NY 10001
Phone: 212-627-5248  Fax: 646-638-4446
E-mail: /

E-Newsletter - January 2014 (Edition One)   

Taxi Workers Alliance Benefits Fund:
Taxi Drivers to Have Benefits On the Job
for First Time Under Leasing!  

After years of hard-fought struggle, taxi drivers of New York City have won benefits on the job.  In July 2012, as part of the fare raise and new lease cap protections, NYTWA won a TLC vote to set up a benefits fund through six cents from every fare.  After a long public competition, NYTWA was selected to be the contract holder to run the fund.  Imagine that for the past thirty-plus years, under a brutal leasing system where drivers begin every day at a negative, paying the lease upfront and paying for fuel, tens of thousands of taxi drivers have labored back-breaking 60-hour weeks with no guaranteed income and no benefits to improve the quality of their health and life.  For the first time, drivers won't have to worry if injured or sick.  Drivers and our families will still have income.  For the first time, drivers will have benefits on the job.

Drivers packed hearing rooms and the streets for this historic victory!

(See full TWABF Presentation .PDF)

The Taxi Workers Alliance Benefits Fund is still in the process of registering the contract.  All hack license holders will receive benefits.  Actively working drivers who meet eligibility will receive supplemental disability insurance and supplemental healthcare services.  All drivers will receive Affordable Care Act application assistance.  The services will begin once the contract is registered.

Taxi fleets have been deducting six cents for each fare from drivers since October 1st.  The money collected from the 6 cents is held by the fleet or agent (broker) or vendor. The TLC has directed medallion owners to send in the contributions to a TLC account on a quarterly basis, with the first payment on February 1st.  

The Untold Story

As the NY Daily News' veteran transportation reporter Pete Donohue reported, drivers have been cheated out of Disability Insurance for decades.  Under the same state law which requires Workers Compensation, taxi fleets were supposed to provide Disability Insurance for drivers injured off-duty or unable to work due to illness.  Our organizing exposed garage-broker-TLC-Workers Comp Board 20+ year failure to protect us.  And with the whole of the Benefits Fund, we are taking back rights long stolen from us. 

Know Your Rights!
Drivers can file for minimum NYS Disability coverage of $170/week up to 26 weeks from the NYS Workers Comp Board (provided by fleet or broker) if you are out of work due to off-duty injury or illness. This law has been violated for decades by the industry.

Disability Insurance is different from Workers Compensation.  WC pays compensation for loss of income and for medical bills due to injury on-the-job or work-related illness.  WC also has a death benefit for surviving spouses and children.

Disability Insurance covers loss of income because you fell ill and could not work or because you were injured off-duty and could not work.  There are two types of Disability Insurance coverage now available to taxi drivers:  state minimum coverage through the Workers Compensation Board and for eligible drivers, supplemental (or additional) disability insurance.

TWABF Supplemental Disability Insurance:

The Benefits Fund will give eligible drivers an additional $300 or $350 per week up to 26 weeks. Once the contract is registered and its work begins, the Benefits Fund will help drivers file both regular disability claims with the Workers Compensation Board and for supplemental disability through the Fund for eligible drivers.  Drivers who lease the medallion can apply for WC and NYS Disability.  Now, for the first time, owner-drivers will be covered, as the TWABF will provide supplemental disability insurance also to owner-drivers who meet the eligibility.

Understanding the Affordable Care Act (ACA)
Under Obamacare, you can receive quality health insurance for free or low-cost.  

More people now qualify for Medicaid (a no-cost plan for low-income individuals and families) or can get financial assistance for affordable insurance.  Every state will have an "Exchange" - a regulated one stop marketplace for affordable health insurance plans.

If you currently do not have health insurance but you have a serious health problem, you will not be denied or charged more.  No more punishment for being sick.  The Exchange will also enroll your children under 19 for Child Health Plus.  

Exchange Quality Health Care
Every Exchange plan must cover 10 essential health services and have enough doctors in the network; so you will not be cheated on care in exchange for a lower rate.
  • Preventive & Wellness (Doctor's Visits, Immunization, Prostate Screenings) 
  • Prescription Drugs 
  • Emergency Care
  • Mental Health
  • Hospitalization
  • Rehabilitative & Habilitative
  • Ambulatory Patient Services
  • Laboratory Services
  • Pediatric Dental & Vision
  • Maternity & Newborn 

Requirements to Qualify for Medicaid or an Affordable Plan

Which plan you qualify for - Medicaid or Exchange affordable plan with financial assistance - depends on family size and household income requirements established by each state.  Here are the requirements for NYS residents (see chart):

How much you qualify for in financial support is based on net income.  
Subtract your expenses from your gross income to get your net income. 
Financial Assistance for an Exchange Affordable Plan: Tax Credits & Subsidies    
  • Exchange plans cost 50% less compared to private plans 
  • You can receive financial assistance to help pay for monthly insurance premiums (called "tax credits") or for out-of-pocket expenses (called "subsidies")  
  • Tax credits will help lower your monthly payments for health insurance.  It can be applied during the enrollment process to lower your monthly premiums or provided as a refund when you file your taxes.
  • Subsidies will help lower your out-of-pocket costs when you to the doctor.  Subsidies can only be applied to a Silver category plan.  
  • Once you have insurance, you can get all your preventive care at no extra cost. 
  • You can also get protections such as a cap on how much you have to spend out-of-pocket before the insurance coverage starts and there are no more dollar limits on how much an insurance plan will cover.
  • Adult dependent children up to the age of 29 in NYS can stay on their parents' plan   
Exchange Plan Levels 
  • The affordable plans on the Exchange are divided into five categories.  Plans are offered by many different insurance companies in each category, and all have the same benefits and out-of-pocket expenses by plan level.  However, the plans offer different networks of doctors to choose from, and have different monthly premium costs.
  • After you complete your application, the Exchange will tell you how much of tax credits and subsidies you qualify for and give the list of plans in each category.        

Additional Services Just for Taxi Drivers!  

All eligible taxi drivers will also receive additional healthcare services for free from the Taxi Workers Alliance Benefits Fund.  These are services not included in Obamacare's 10 essential services, so drivers would otherwise have to pay extra on the Exchange.

The TWABF's services will be funded by the six cents collection.  Exchange application assistance and many other services are open to all hack license holders.

The supplemental healthcare services are open to all drivers determined to meet the eligibility requirements according to TLC data (weekly average per month of 66 trips or $790 bookings).  An estimated up to 32,000 drivers are expected to meet eligibility per month.

TWABF Supplemental Healthcare Services 
  • Vision Plan for family 
  • Dental Plan for family
  • Hearing Plan for family
  • 24-hour Doctors Line for family
  • 24-hour Stress Management & Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services for family (Depression, Alcoholism)
  • Back Health Services
  • Discounted Diabetic Supplies, Lab, Diagnostic Imaging, Chiropractic care, Fitness, Alternative Medicine, and Prescription Medication for family 
Eligible drivers will also receive Supplemental Disability Insurance ($300 or $350 per week up to 26 weeks for loss of income due to off-duty injury or illness), $10,000 Term Life Insurance and $10,000 Accidental Death and Dismemberment Insurance.  

When to Apply for Healthcare  

Currently Uninsured:
If you do not have health insurance right now, you can apply now until March 31st for an Exchange affordable plan with financial assistance.  You can apply for Medicaid anytime during the year.
Already Have Medicaid or Family Health Plus:
If you currently have Medicaid or Family Health Plus, you don't have to do anything now.  You can keep your Medicaid or FHP plan and, before it expires (12 months from your date of enrollment in 2013), you can apply to see what program you will qualify for under Obamacare or if you are Medicaid eligible.  FHP is no longer accepting new applicants.

Application Help 

You can enroll directly with the state online or over the phone at 1-855-355-5777.  You can ask for a translator on the phone and the application is also available online in different languages.  For help in-person, you must see a NYS certified application counselor.  Drivers can call the NYTWA Office (212-627-5248) for information on locations and times where assistance is provided.

Driver-Tailored Application Help for ALL Drivers!  Once the contract with the TLC is finalized, the Taxi Workers Alliance Benefits Fund's certified application counselors will be able to help ALL drivers with a hack-license to evaluate which plan is best for you after understanding what the Fund will provide you for free.  TWABF staff will also be able to help you complete the application and provide assistance to driver household family members with immigration related matters.

Once you have Medicaid or an affordable plan, the TWABF staff will remind you of important deadlines and help you meet the requirement to inform the Exchange if anything changes about your income, family size or eligibility for other types of coverage.  And help you with plan renewals which start in November 2014.  TWABF will also provide "consumer assistance" in case of problems with the insurance carrier.  

What You Need to Apply 

You are not required to bring any documents with you.  But you will have to provide the information below:
  1. Social Security numbers for each person in household 
  2. Document numbers for legal immigrants (may not be needed for certain Medicaid programs) (e.g. Green Card number)
  3. Birth dates
  4. You will have to estimate your income for 2014.  To help you calculate this amount, the counselor will ask about your operating expenses (lease, fuel, vehicle repairs and maintenance and purchasing costs and other work-related expenses).
  5. Employer and income information regarding last year or last tax filing year (for everyone in the household). This information can come from: Pay stubs, W2 Forms, Wage and Tax Statements
  6. Information about any additional insurance you or your family members may have. 

Get Back Your Hard-Earned Income!  Fleet Owner Gene Freidman to Pay $750,000 in Restitution to Drivers for Overcharges!
Full Terms Revealed in Historic NYS Attorney General and TLC Settlement

We salute the NYTWA members who came forward with Lease Overcharge complaints!  Evgeny "Gene" Freidman, owner of one of the largest taxi fleets in New York City, is now being held accountable by the Attorney General's Office for cheating drivers out of their earnings by overcharging on the lease.   Last Fall, TLC and the AG's Office teamed up to begin an investigation into the practices at Freidman's garages, following a series of complaints filed by NYTWA on behalf of taxi drivers.  He will now owe $750,000 back to drivers, as well as a $500,000 fine to the City.

This settlement agreement is the first of its kind by the Attorney General since TLC lease cap rules were established in 1997. 

Read a PDF of the Official Agreement or review a Summary of Terms (view or download).Drivers leasing from any of the Freidman garages who were overcharged in 2012 or 2013 - you have the right to your money back!  The money will be given by Freidman to the Attorney General's Office who will then send the money to the drivers who were overcharged.

Do you lease from any of these Freidman Garages? 
  • Downtown (330 Butler St)
  • 28th St. Mgmt (313 Tenth Ave)
  • Tunnel (44-07 Vernon Blvd)
  • Woodside Mgmt (49-13 Roosevelt Ave)    

Call NYTWA at 212-627-5248 for help to get back your hard-earned income!

NYTWA's Outreach Team has been going to all the Freidman garages to monitor his compliance with the settlement.  So far, we have found that he is still in violation of TLC rules.  Several other investigations remain ongoing. 

We continue to gather daily receipts from drivers and file complaints.