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New Illinois law means state retirees have to pay health insurance premiums

Governor PQuinn. Sun-Times Medifile photo

Governor Pat Quinn. Sun-Times Media file photo

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Updated: June 21, 2012 7:15PM

SPRINGFIELD — Current and future state retirees will have to begin paying premiums for their state retiree health insurance under legislation Gov. Pat Quinn signed Thursday, a move the governor said was essential if the benefit for long-serving state workers was to continue.

Starting July 1, state government retirees will pay the premiums based on their ability to pay.

“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. “We also have a duty to taxpayers to ensure these plans are cost-efficient and put Illinois on the path to fiscal stability.”

The law also applies to judges, legislators and retired university employees, a group whose retiree health care collectively costs the state about $800 million a year.

Until now, retired legislators were eligible for state-subsidized health insurance after four years of service. Retired judges could get it after four years on the bench, and state and university employees who put in at least 20 years of service would receive the perk.

It is not clear exactly how much in premiums that group will have to pay as a result of the new law, which was opposed by public-employee unions. Rates will be set by Quinn’s administration with the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, a legislative rule-making body.

Quinn’s move drew condemnation from the largest union representing state workers, which questioned the governor’s priorities in slashing retiree health care after earlier signing off on big tax breaks to Sears Holdings, CME Group Inc. and other corporations.

“This bill jeopardizes affordable health care for state and university retirees,” said Virginia Yates, president of AFSCME Retirees Chapter 31. “The governor saying his action ‘preserves health benefits’ is political doubletalk, 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, Gov. Quinn shows his priorities are out of touch,” she said.

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