Government
11:38 am
Sat May 12, 2012

Plan to end state retirees' free health insurance premiums goes to Governor

The Illinois  Senate approved the measure Thursday, and Governor Pat Quinn says he'll sign it into law.

Health insurance premiums for retirees with at least 20 years of service are fully covered by the state. The perk does not cover deductibles and co-pays.  The legislation sent to the governor seeks to eliminate the perk.

Supporters say the bill would preserve retirees' access to health care. Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno acknowledged it was a difficult vote.

"I bet every single person in this chamber has campaigned on how we need to right the financial ship of state here. That's been our primary discussion point over the last several years. We're all out on the trail saying, 'We're going to do the right thing, send me there to take the tough votes, I can do it.' And now we have the opportunity to do that."

But AFSCME official John Cameron says lawmakers are taking away something employees worked hard to earn.

"I think we have to be clear here what the intent of this legislation is, which is to take hundreds of millions of dollars out of the pockets of the state's 114-thousand retired state and university former employees."

Cost estimates and changes

According to state government, about 90 percent of retired state and university workers do not pay premiums for their coverage. The program is estimated to cost the state nearly $900-million in the next fiscal year.

Under the proposal, the state would negotiate rates with AFSCME. The governor's administration says it wants a seven-tiered payment structure based on pension income and years of service.