SPRINGFIELD — State retirees protested at the capital today against a measure that could curtail $876 million in taxpayer subsidies for retirees’ health care.

By Stephanie Fryer

SPRINGFIELD — State retirees protested at the capital today against a measure that could curtail $876 million in taxpayer subsidies for retirees’ health care.

Barbara Franklin, a retiree who worked for the University of Illinois for 37 years, said, “I paid year in and year out for my insurance, for my dependents’ insurance, with the promise that when I retired if I had more than 20 years, my insurance would be paid for.”

Retired state workers and university employees qualify for premium-free state health insurance, if they worked for more than 20 years. A retiree can have 40 percent of their health insurance subsidized after working eight years.

Pending legislation in the Illinois House could limit or even strip Franklin and thousands of other state retirees of their subsidized health insurance. Senate Bill 1313 would allow the Illinois Department of Central Management Services to set premiums annually.

The measure, which has bipartisan support in the House, was approved unanimously by the House Executive Committee Wednesday. It now awaits a full vote by the House.

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  1. Really? We’re going after the elderly for revenue?

    This kind of story makes my stomach turn.  Going after the benefits of the elderly, who were state workers, not Wallstreet fat cats, is unethical.  Lawmakers and crooks caused massive debt over the years and now they want to solve the problem by vilifying and punishing retired state workers.  Disgusting.  

    1. The “elderly”?

      I would hardly term them as "elderly". My mother is 67 and becomes quite upset when she is termed as such.

      If one can draw on pension-free health insurance after 20 years in the system, one could begin collecting in their early 40s (if not in their late 30s, if no college). That's hardly old age. On top of that, taxpayers could be subsidizing this benefit for 30-40 years for retirees. That is simply an unsustainable program. State workers could pay into the system for 20 years and draw on the system for twice that? 

      I don't think everything should be cut, but the system needs to be fixed.

      1. Yes–the “elderly”

        I meant no offense to anyone's mother, but surely you must realize that there are thousands of retired state workers older than your mother.  My father is 86, a retired state worker, and living on a  fixed income.  It is ridiculous that the state is going to charge him a premium (at who knows what rate) at this late date when he has no other source of income.  In addition, my mother is his dependent and the state plans to raise her dependent premium (again, no disclosure as to what rate).  They are both octogenarians and the system should not be fixed at their expense.   

      2. Misunderstanding of retirement age and benefits

        That promotes a misunderstanding of the system.  Your retirement can't occur in your 30s or 40s under the current state system regardless of your years of service.  Promoting this kind of ridiculous information is an attempt to spread more bad will against state workers.  At the very least let's leave Anonymous' eighty year old parents' pension alone.

        1. Educate us on the real benefits

          I am not attempting to spread "ridiculous" information to garner ill will against state workers. I was reading the article which stated that "the promise that when I retired if I had more than 20 years, my insurance would be paid for.

          "Retired state workers and university employees qualify for premium-free state health insurance, if they worked for more than 20 years. A retiree can have 40 percent of their health insurance subsidized after working eight years."

          This does seem like someone would only have to work until the age of 40 or so to qualify. The article does not mention anything about what age you can start drawing benefits.

          I am willing to leave people who are in their 80s alone, but there are definitely people who are much (much) younger than 80 who are drawing on the plan. 

          The system is broken and at some point no longer sustainable.

          1. (Hopefully) helpful clarification…

            Typically, "full" pension benefits are not earned until the employee has served 20 years.  BUT, workers cannot RECEIVE those benefits until age 50-55 (again, YMMV).

            So, your 21-year-old new-hire employee may QUALIFY for a pension as early as age 41, but cannot COLLECT on that pension for at least 9-14 years.

            Also, I don't know how teachers and other state/municipal employees' post-employment insurance works, but I CAN tell you that firefighters DON'T get "free" health insurance in retirement.  They can still pay the FULL COST of the health insurance offered by the city (and take advantage of the lower "group rates" offered), but the retirees pay for ALL OF IT, i.e. no "employer contribution" for even a portion of the coverage is provided.


  2. We have all been learning

    The same thing has been going on it the private sector. Companies can no longer support the promises of the past.

    In the public sector, people are discovering that the democrats have been lying to them for years. They have bought their votes with empty promises. Quinn won his last election by promising no layoffs for state union members.

    Will the people remember to end the political careers of the Quinns, Madigans (Lisa and Mike), and the Collertons.

    These retirees should be mad but they are going to lose because the the Illinois government has been stuffing their own pockets and draining the financial resources of the citizens.

    1. I agree with you 100%

      I agree with you 100%.  That said, I think we should clarify that both Democrats and Republicans in state government are responsible for the pension problems here in Illinois.  I would argue that when it comes to politics in our state, we do not always have clear distictions between Democrats and Republicans–we simply have Chicago politicians when the candidate is from Chicago.  I would also argue that it would be very hard to "vote" out a Chicago politician such as Mike Madigan, as "voting" implies that the people of Chicago cast ballots that are accurately counted.  In certain elections, especially in Chicago, this just isn't the case.  Some politicians will remain if office seemingly (if not actually) for life because the votes of their constituents only count when they are supporting the "right" candidate. 

      1. I agree…

        Just remember that everyone wants to keep his or her own corrupt pol in office, so the voters get just what they deserve (not only in the state but right here in Evanston)!

      2. Sorry

        I must have been half asleep and didn't read what I wrote. It is certainly both dems and reps. The major state reps I never trusted were Ryan and Thompson and they are not in office any more.

  3. lots of misinformation here.

    lots of misinformation here. like every retirement system i know of, there is a minimum retirement age, two actually – early with reduced benefits and regular with full benefits. can't retire @ 40 and get anything. history of mess is the state cheated on funding the system. Like social security, state workers paid 8.5% of their wages, the state, like private employers, was supposed to pay in a like amount. instead they spent the money elsewhere. feds would have jailed a private company that did that with ss dollars. by the way, state worker were NOT given the option of switching to ss.

    Last good ill gov, Jim Edgar, left office with a plan in place to correct the misfunding. didn't survive ryan – both dems &repubs at fault. same old illinois story. i could go on with more, 20 years for free health care was a reform actually  

    1. Social security vs. State plan

      State workers pay 8.5% of their wages into the system just like social security. But social security does not provide free health care for life. The article discusses reducing the health care benefits. If I am not mistaken, private employers and employees pay for Medicare. Are state employees able to draw on Medicare and do they pay into it at the same rate as private employees?

      1. not quite a free lunch

        Consider that many of the State retirees will not get any Social Security if they werre employed by agencies, such as the universities that do not with hold social security from their pay check withholdings, etc.. Only those who might have worked long enough in the private sector (10 years) will get social security benefits and then, assuming they worked most of their productive years for the state, the SS payments will be minimal

        As to health care, yes, if they worked long enough the get free health insurance, but not quite!

        First of all, only their own insurance is free. If they are married and their spouse is covered by the same health plan (often the case), they pay for the spouse at the same rate as if they werenot getting free insurance, i.e., the are essentially paying for their health insurance. The pay even more, by the way if they have added dependants.

        Now, until they get to 65, this system is their primary health coverage, but guess what? At age 65 the State requires them to enroll in Medicare, which then becomes their primary insurer with money paid out to Medicare regardless of whether they have retired and are on Social Security. Their "not so free" health care is now hteir supplemental plan and is still not free, but costs as much as when it was their primary. Oh yes, when the spouse hits 65 years, she/he also has to pay Medicare and the "not so free" plan is supplemental, as well.

        All in all, it is not quite a rosy and golden as it seems when looking only at the misnomer "free". The term is being misued by the press, but also, as others have noted, by those same legislators (both parties BTW) who chose never to fund the pensions while they "bought votes" by avoiding paying their share into the system and promising "no new taxes" or "no tax hikes". Even Quinn stalled during his first term and avoided what he finally did last year when he raised the income tax and then ,as we now see, managed not to reduce any of the overall debt by a dime as he repaid those who voted for him with pay hikes. Two months to go in the fiscal year and social service agencies have to shut down for lack of funds. Of course, on July 1, the reset the clock and run up more debt since there is still no money only a new clean ledger.

        This State may, as some small towns have already done, one day, declare bankruptcy and try to sell all their assets to the public or the private sector. Hmmm, I wonder what Lincoln's tomb is worth? or maybe the State of Illinois Building in the Loop? Will those be considered "toxic assets"?

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