May 15, 2012

Free Healthcare for Retirees on the Way Out

Legislation passed by the Illinois General Assembly
will have retirees pay for healthcare.
(Photo courtesy stock.xchng.)
THE ILLINOIS House and Senate passed a measure May 9 and 10 that would end free health care for retired University employees.  SB 1313 will now go to Governor Patrick Quinn, who issued a statement in support of the measure earlier.

“THIS LEGISLATION will help ensure that our retirees continue to have access to quality health care while also lowering the cost to taxpayers," Quinn said.

THE AMOUNT of premiums retirees will pay will be established by Central Management Services (CMS), and then recommended to the State Legislature's bi-partisan, bicameral J-CAR (Joint Committee on Administrative Rules) for approval before being put into effect.

IN OPPOSITION, AFSCME (American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees) Council 31 said, “The legislation would remove the current schedule of State-supported health benefits and leave it to the discretion of CMS. This means CMS could charge whatever they choose to for premiums or completely eliminate any subsidy for retiree health insurance all together. This legislation breaks a commitment to affordable health care coverage for State and University retirees, including thousands who were encouraged to take early retirement and do not qualify for Medicare.

“IN THE past, retiree health benefits were decided through the collective bargaining process and only then would any changes be enacted into law,” AFSCME continued. “The collective bargaining process should be honored, and this issue should be a subject of collective bargaining. Through collective bargaining, health care benefits have been made more affordable to the State. Shifting the costs of health insurance premiums will not reduce the cost of health care, it will only reduce the standard of living for Illinois retirees.”

IN THE Springfield State Journal-Register of May 10, Sen. Larry Bomke (R-Springfield) said he thinks the bill is unconstitutional because it applies to people who retired years ago from the State with the expectation of receiving health insurance at no premium cost if they worked 20 or more years for the State. The benefit was put into state law in 1997. Bomke said the change should only apply to future retirees.

BOMKE SAID, “To vote yes on this bill will simply mean that we’ll have a court challenge, we’ll spend millions of dollars we don’t have trying to defend it, only to realize it’s not constitutional.”

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