Pharmacies Are Now Open On Weekends!

July 23, 2015

Orthontics Benefit, Improvement in Ambulance Benefit Have Also Begun

One of the improvements obtained in the contract extension that was recently ratified by Hotel Trades Council members is that the Health Center pharmacies will be open on weekends. The union is happy to announce that this improvement began on Saturday, August 1. From that date forward, the pharmacies at the Brooklyn, Queens, Midtown and Harlem Health Centers will be open on Saturdays and Sundays from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Members may call in prescriptions as late as Friday to be picked up on Saturdays (and/or Sundays). Of course, the pharmacies will remain open during the week (Mondays through Fridays) from 7:30 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. in addition to the 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. hours on weekends.

A rendering of what the new Brooklyn Health Center will look like.

There are, of course, other improvements in benefits that will come about as a result of the contract extension, not the least of which is the building of a new state-of-the-art Health Center in Brooklyn and the expansion and modernization of the Queens Health Center. The construction of the new Brooklyn Health Center is already underway, as seen in this photo taken this week. Once the new Brooklyn Health Center is completed—it is hoped this will occur before the end of 2016—work will begin on the expansion and modernization of the Queens Health Center.

Construction begins on the new Brooklyn Health Center

Another improvement that has come about as a result of the contract extension is the introduction of an orthodontics (dental braces) benefit. This additional improvement began providing benefits for those in treatment on or after July 1, 2015, and it applies to children of members. From now on, the Benefit Funds will provide orthodontia benefits up to $1,000 for each covered employee’s dependent(s) up to and including age 17. To be reimbursed under the orthodontics benefit members should bring their bills to the fourth floor of the Benefit Funds, 305 West 44th Street. Members can also drop off orthodontics bills at any of the Dental Centers.

The improvement in the vision benefit enjoyed by members and their families will begin on January 1, 2016. Under this improvement, the Benefit Funds will reimburse each eligible member and dependent for vision related expenses—including frames, lenses, eyeglasses, contact lenses and exams not performed at the Health Centers—up to $200 per calendar year. After January 1, 2016, the GVS plan will no longer be used under this change and eligible members and their dependents may use the Health Centers for free eye exams to obtain prescriptions for their lenses. If members do not use any or all of their $200 benefit in one year it can carry over to the next year up to a maximum of $400. To be reimbursed after the program begins on January 1, 2016, members can bring their vision-related receipts to the Benefit Funds’ Office, 305 West 44th Street, fourth floor.

The improvement in the ambulance benefit provided by the contract extension is already in effect. The Benefit Funds will pay members’ ambulance bills according to its fee schedule, which is accepted as full payment by the majority of ambulance services. Of course, members must remember that the ambulance benefit is for true emergencies only. It is not to be used for transportation to a hospital for minor, non-life threatening conditions such as stomach pain, earaches, coughs, sprains, etc. In general, if you can get out of your residence by yourself it is best to take a cab to the hospital. And while the Benefit Funds will pay members’ ambulance bills according to its fee schedule, ambulance companies are free to charge whatever they want for their services. In some rare cases members may get a “balance” bill from the ambulance company. That is an additional amount the company charges above what the Benefit Funds has already paid. If you get a balance bill, do not ignore it and assume the Benefit Funds will pay it. The Benefit Funds’ Office does not get a copy of the bill and has no knowledge of it. Please bring the bill to the Funds’ Office at 305 West 44th Street, fourth floor. The Benefit Funds will negotiate the payment with the ambulance company and settle your claim. Please remember that ambulance bills for anything other than true emergencies will have to be denied by the Benefit Funds and will be the responsibility of members.

There is another improvement in benefits that begins on January 1, 2017. Called a Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA), it will provide reimbursements of $200 for individuals and $400 for families each year for a wide variety of expenses related to health such as over-the-counter medications, vitamins, gym memberships, etc.

All of these improvements are in addition to the increases in wages and Benefit Funds contributions contained in the current contract and its seven-year extension that was approved by an overwhelming percentage of the members who participated in the June 11 ratification vote.