state retirees

The Illinois Supreme Court says the free health insurance enjoyed by state retirees is protected by the Illinois Constitution. As IPR's Brian Mackey reports, the opinion could have significant implications for Illinois’ hugely underfunded pension system.

Illinois used to pay the health insurance premiums for retirees with 20 years of service. But as of last year, those former workers had to chip in.

A Health Alliance spokeswoman says criteria regarding enrollment numbers kept the insurance carrier from offering Medicare Advantage plans to retirees. The Urbana-based insurer learned this week that it was excluded for retiree plans starting in January, while the state directed those 15,000 people to four other carriers. Spokeswoman Jane Hayes says Health Alliance was required to have one or more employers who have a minimum of 1,000 participants enrolled in Medicare Advantage. She says it’s hard to find an employer with that many retirees in any benefit plan, noting more employers are dropping health care coverage for retirees: