Thursday, June 21, 2012

Quinn signs bill to cut state funding of retiree health care benefits

By Jamey Dunn

Retired state employees will soon likely have to pay premiums for their health care, but there is no way for them to know yet how much they will have to shell out.

Gov. Pat Quinn signed Senate Bill 1313 today, which removes guaranteed subsides for retiree health care. Currently, most retired state workers do not pay premiums for their coverage. However, they do have other out-of-pocket costs, such as co-payments. Supporters of the bill say that the cost of the benefit was putting a strain on the budget and a burden on taxpayers. “Close to 80,000 state retirees do not pay a premium for their health care; we simply cannot afford that anymore,” said House Republican Leader Tom Cross. “I commend the governor and other leaders in the General Assembly for supporting this important reform that will bring more fiscal stability to the state. These new premiums will be negotiated by the administration and labor unions, who will come to an agreement that is fair for the taxpayers and the retirees.” According to Quinn, the benefit costs about $800 million annually.

However, it is nearly impossible to predict what this law would save the state. While it goes into effect in July 1, it is only the start of a multi-step process. Under SB 1313, Central Management Systems would choose an amount that the state would pay for retiree health care. That number would then go through the collective bargaining process and would have to be approved by the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules. Quinn has said he plans to have employees pay on a sliding scale based on their income. So, currently retirees cannot predict what they might be asked to pay in the future.

Quinn said the change will make the retiree health care program sustainable. “Those who have faithfully served the state deserve access to quality health care, and insurance costs should be more balanced and based on actual retirement income,” Quinn said in a written statement. “We also have a duty to taxpayers to ensure these plans are cost-efficient and put Illinois on the path to fiscal stability.”

But opponents say the law will make life difficult for retirees who are living on a fixed income and did not plan for the change. “This bill jeopardizes affordable health care for state and university retirees, Virginia Yates, president of AFSCME Retirees Chapter 31, said in a written statement. The governor saying his action ‘preserves health benefits’ is political double talk, and his claim that our health coverage is ‘free’ is false. In fact, seniors like me and 114,000 other retirees and dependents already pay $3,000 a year or more in co-pays, deductibles and premiums. By cutting retiree health care at the same time he’s handing out hundreds of millions in tax giveaways to big corporations, Governor Quinn shows his priorities are out of touch.” 


Anonymous said...

The first shot from this Gen. Ass embly at retired workers is like kicking a guy in the you know where while he's down!! Who screwed up the accounting?! The Gen. Ass embly! They should first take the hit from their full time pay for part-time work. Also, what management does anyone do of state government. Along with that, salaries in government continue to skyrocket. In less than 10 years positions that I knew of, have increased somewhere around 18% to 23%. Middle management has also been allowed to become part of the union. There is no management of government to be found. Any reasonable family first looks at their budget to asses expenses. Not this tribe of do-gooders. Bushells of millions of 'additional spending' for pet programs were passed in the final hours rather than paying bills. The Gov. should veto this chicago move but he won't.

Anonymous said...

I retired at age 55 in 2005, believing in the legal contract between the State of Illinois and its workers. My wife and I were finally completely out of debt and figured that, with the terms of my health insurance, we could get by on $1,000 per month, growing our own vegetables, raising a flock of chickens and cutting our own firewood. We were right--until now. We no longer have faith in our government. If we had been Sears or CME...

Anonymous said...

Mr. Potatoe Head(Quinn) is a thief. He steals from retiree's to fund progressive agenda's. I took a reduced pension to recieve free health care. Not only is the pension reduced by my own agreement, signed sealed and delivered, but I pay $308.00 a month for insurance that is sup;posed to be free, plus $11.00 for4 dental, plus another $100.00 a month to an other plan. STOP GIVING MONEY AWAY TO PEOPLE WHO DON'T DESERVE IT!!!