Retired Chicago workers have asked a federal judge to block an increase on their health insurance premiums. The Emanuel administration is looking to save $27 million next year by increasing health insurance premiums for retired city workers by 30 percent to 79 percent.
In July, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that subsidized health care premiums are protected by the Illinois Constitution for state workers, adding that the state legislature is "precluded from diminishing or impairing” that perk. The Chicago retirees say the ruling should be applied to their case and their premiums should be returned to 2013 levels, which is when the Emanuel administration unveiled its plan to phase out the 55 percent health care premium subsidy for retirees and, instead, move over to Obamacare. The city is pushing back against the former workers' claims, saying the city “never promised its retirees lifetime medical benefits,” whereas the state had.
“The city is throwing hardballs at a time when the Illinois Supreme Court is making it clear that retiree health care benefits are protected. The city is determined to thumb their nose at the Illinois Supreme Court decision and fight this to the death,” Clinton Krislov, an attorney for the retirees, said, according to the Sun-Times. “Our likelihood of prevailing has substantially increased. That means that, during the course of this case, the rates should be restored to what they were when we filed our complaints in the fall of 2013.”
Meanwhile, city officials say the phaseout will continue, with those who retired after August 23, 1989 soon to receive notice of a subsidy reduction to 25 percent for 2015.
If the judge rules in favor of the retirees, they could stand to save between $50 and $800 each month, while the city would have to pay out some $52 million.