Fioretti blasts Emanuel for socking it to retirees on health care

SHARE Fioretti blasts Emanuel for socking it to retirees on health care

Mayoral challengerBob Fiorettion Monday accused Mayor Rahm Emanuel of pushing 25,000 retired city workers “closer to poverty” by raising their monthly health insurance premiums by 40 percent.

“This will place an unsustainable financial burden on our retirees, who are already facing cuts to their pensions,” the 2nd Wardalderman said.

“Our retirees dedicated their lives to making our city work. How does this administration repay them? By breaking its promises and pushing struggling Chicagoans closer to poverty. It’s unconscionable at a time when we should be looking to build our [economy]from the middleoutand lifting up our working families.”

Fioretti was asked where he would find the $27 million that Emanuel hopes to save in the city’s 2015 budget by continuing to phase out Chicago’s 55 percent subsidy for retiree health care.

“A lot of this they’ve known was coming down the road for a long time. It’s long-term bad planning. We should work to find ways to fund the promises we made,” he said.

“There are ways —whether it’s looking at a [1 percent] commuter tax [or] complete reform of TIFs —all of those are the real tough decisions we have to make to move this city forward. Those are solutions my administration will find.”

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, also mulling a race for mayor against Emanuel, could not be reached for comment.

Last yearEmanuel announced plans to save $108.7 million a year by phasing out the city’s 55 percent subsidy for retiree health care and forcing retirees to make the switch to Obamacare.

For the city, the Year One savings was $25 million. For retirees, that translated into an increase in monthly health insurance premiums in the 20- to- 30-percent range.

Late last week, Chicago’s retired city workers and their dependents got hit again —only this time, even harder.

The Emanuel administration notified them of a 40-percent increase that will cost most of the retirees $400 more permonth.

The increase stunned Clinton Krislov, an attorney representing retirees in a marathon legal battle against the city, and not only because health care costs appear to be “flattening,” as he put it.

What’s more surprising is that Emanuel is forging fullspeed ahead with his phase-out of the 55-percent city subsidydespite a July court ruling that could tip the scales against the city.

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled then that subsidized health care premiums for state employees are protected under the Illinois Constitution and that the General Assembly was “precluded from diminishing or impairing that benefit.”

Budget and Management spokesman Carl Gutierrez has called the increase “part of our efforts to right the city’s financial ship” and save Chicago taxpayers $27 million in 2015.

“For pre-Medicare retirees, there will be an additional reduction in their subsidy by only 25 percent, and the city is offering four plans to provide them with options for health care and to reduce their costs, including an option that would reduce their premiums,” he wrote in an email.

City retirees have their own lawsuit pending that Krislov expects willresult in an outcome similar to the one in the state case.

That’s why he’s surprised that Emanuel is going full steam ahead.

“Restraint might have been called for until the case is over, but restraint doesn’t seem to be the plan here. The plan is to wean retirees off the city subsidy and have them off entirely by Jan. 1, 2017,” Krislov said late Friday.

“We were planning to go in next week to ask the court to roll back the rate to 2013 levels [before the first round of subsidy cuts]. This huge increase —which is quite breathtaking considering where health care costs are now —gives us even more reason for doing that.We hope the court will rule accordingly and finally resolve this issue so the city’s retirees know that their benefits are as they rightfully anticipated.”

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