WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Illinois Goes After Retiree Health Insurance

May 2, 2012

Retired state and public university employees in Illinois will have to pitch in for their health insurance under a measure approved by an Illinois House committee.

Free health insurance is a benefit given to retirees who worked long careers in Illinois government. Legislators who serve as little as four years also get free health care when they retire.

But the legislation (SB1313 HA8,HA9) takes away the perk and allows the governor’s administration to decide how much of a retirees' health care premium the state will pay for each year.

Joanna Beth Gauvin of AFSCME, which is the state's largest public employees union, said health benefits should be decided during contract negotiations, which are ongoing.

"This has always been part of the collective bargaining process.  It's always been part of a broader compensation package.  That collective bargaining process should be honored," Gauvin said. "The administration should be focusing its efforts on that process as opposed to seeking interference in the legislative process."

But Governor Pat Quinn, House Speaker Mike Madigan and House Republican Leader Tom Cross all back the legislation.  They all say Illinois is unable to afford the nearly $900 million spent each year to cover retirees' health insurance costs.

Statehouse observers said they are using the plan as leverage as they fight with unions over proposed cuts to current state employees' pensions.

Thanks to Illinois Public Radio