Illinois Supreme Court Hears Health Insurance Case
By Brian Mackey
The Illinois Supreme Court heard arguments on Wednesday in a case that asks whether state government retirees should have to pay premiums for health insurance. The case could affect how the state tries to solve its budget-busting pension problem.
The Supreme Court is considering four cases at once, each attacking last year's money-saving retiree health care law.
Until this year, Illinois paid the health insurance premiums for retirees with 20 years of service. Now they have to chip in — one percent of their pension if eligible for Medicare, two percent if not.
The workers point out that the Illinois Constitution protects government pension benefits. They argue those protections also extend to health insurance.
The state, however, says that's wrong — that the protections in the Constitution apply to traditional pensions, not other benefits.
A judge in Springfield sided with the state, and the Illinois Supreme Court agreed to skip the usual appeals process and hear the case directly.
The state began deducting health insurance fees from pensions on July 1. The money is sitting untouched in a special account until the case is resolved.