No clear timetable on state retiree health care changes

Jun 25, 2012

Retired state workers in Illinois will have to pay more for their health insurance. But it appears it won't be right away. The law signed last week aims to reduce retiree health-care costs. It ends the practice of the state covering the entire premium costs for those with at least 20 years of service.

The law takes effect July first. But the state has to negotiate the new rates with union leaders. Plus, a legislative committee has to sign off on the agreement.  Senator Pam Althoff, R-Crystal Lake, is a member of that panel. She says there doesn't appear to be anything indicating exactly when the changes will occur.

"There's a lot more work that needs to be done on an actual proposal.  So we have no idea.  I would hope within the next six months.  But again, I'm guessing" Althoff said.
A state official also didn't have a clear answer on a timetable.  

Doug Moore is president of the DeKalb County chapter of AFSCME retirees. To him, what happens July 1 is as big of a mystery as it is to anyone else. Moore thinks the legislative panel tasked with figuring out how to charge retirees for their health insurance premiums will have a plan by September. Then they could waive the premiums that would have been charged since July 1, or they could bill retirees, retroactive to that date.

"I think the governor is going to go far enough on this that it is going to put an incredible burden on retirees, particularly those retirees with annual pensions of less than thirty-thousand dollars" Moore said.

Moore says it’s safe to say this is the biggest reduction in state retiree benefits in Illinois history. He wants the legislative panel working on the details to keep the retirees with smaller pensions in mind. He says fifty dollars a month would be reasonable, but one early proposal indicated lawmakers were considering as much as $200 a month for health insurance for retirees with pensions under $30,000. Those with larger pensions could be asked to pay as much as $800 a month in health insurance premiums. Moore adds that these numbers are speculative at this point.