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Rahm defends phasing out city subsidy for retiree health care

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Thursday defended his decision to save $108.7 million-a-year by phasing out the city's 55 percent subsidy for retiree health care and forcing 30,000 retired city employees to make the switch to ObamaCare.

"There's another way to upset people, which is saddle `em with a half-billion dollars worth of costs with no way to pay it. That, too, will have a lot of other people upset," Emanuel said.

"You get the freedom of looking at a question with one peephole. I have to look at it from the whole perspective...What is now a $109 million cost to the taxpayers grows to a half-billion dollars in a short time. So, I've got to make sure people continue to get health care and have the options to avail themselves of health care, but not in a way that saddles taxpayers with a cost they have no way to pay for."

The mayor acknowledged that retiree health care is an emotional issue that triggered a lawsuit and resulted in the 55 percent subsidy he wants to phase out by January, 2017.

"We balance those equities. Do it in a thoughtful and sensitive way. If only I made the decisions that don't upset anybody else, it's in the bottom drawer in the corner all the way in the back. It doesn't exist in the office I ran for that I'm proud to hold," he said.

"What comes with the office is, you've got to make the tough decisions that balance a lot of different equities and do what's best for the city and everybody involved."

Union leaders and retirees have accused the mayor of foisting them on the great unknown of ObamaCare before anybody really knows how it will work. Emanuel doesn't look at it that way. He believes the fears are unfounded.

"Everybody will get health care. Our oldest people will continue on the exact [same] plan. Those on Medicare will continue to get Medicare and the chance to have support so they can buy additional coverage. Our early retirees--we're giving them a runway until 2017 as we transition people to the health care exchanges that will offer them the opportunity to buy health care . Some will pay less. Some will not," he said.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported this week that Emanuel has decided to extend the city's 55 percent subsidy for retiree health care by six months--until Jan. 1--then phase it out over the next three years after giving ObamaCare a chance to shake out.

But, 5,500 of the oldest and most vulnerable retirees will be guaranteed a 55 percent subsidy as long as they live.

The City Council approved the existing retiree health care settlement and must approve any changes. Aldermen already on the hot-seat to approve Emanuel's controversial parking meter changes are already getting an earful from thousands of angry and frightened retirees.

"My biggest fear is that some of them won't be able to live within their means. They have mortgages to pay. Many still have educations they're paying for--older children in their teens with college educations to pay for. They want to enjoy their golden years," said Ald. Matt O'Shea (19th), whose Southwest Side ward is home to scores of city retirees.

Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) agreed with union leaders that Emanuel's "priorities" are out of whack.

"They keep saying we don't have the money for this kind of stuff and the money is sitting in TIF's. They're gonna give $125 million to DePaul. There's the money right there," Waguespack said.

"Stop telling us we need to go find other money when it's sitting there in TIF accounts and funneled over to private concerns when your priorities are to lop off access to health care for people who put in a lifetime of service."


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6 Comments

--"Union leaders and retirees have accused the mayor of foisting them on the great unknown of ObamaCare before anybody really knows how it will work. Emanuel doesn't look at it that way. He believes the fears are unfounded."

Well how do you like that? Weren't these the very same union leaders and supporters demanding that Congress pass Obama-Care? I clearly remember because I used to be in the SEIU years ago. During the time Obama-Care was passed, I would get mailing after mailing telling me to support the affordable health care act and to contact my local representative to demand health care for all. Of course I didn't. Well good. You wanted Obama-Care, you can live with it.

We Conservatives warned you about this. God as my witness I was on newspaper blogs ringing alarm bells that you public sector employees are going to be thrown onto some "affordable" government run health care plan in order to cut down on costs. After all, we need to spend that money on bike paths. Today it is retirees, tomorrow it will be all city employees. Except the mayor, aldermen and department hacks of course.

I HAVE TWO TYPES OF CANCER. I WORKED FOR THE CITY OF CHICAGO FOR 4OYEARS. THIS IS HOW YOU MAYOR CARE ABOUT US HOW LONG DO I HAVE .HELP THE PEOPLE THAT GOT YOU ELECTED AM

The public doesn't know that City & State employees don't pay into Social Security, therefore, they cannot collect Social Security PLUS their pension, like a lot other states allow. This would greatly help retirees.

City of Chicago employees don't pay into Social Security but they have anither option called deferred compensation that supplements their retirement. It is available to all City employees. If you didn't pay into it that's on you. A lot if these City employees are living above their means now. They live check to check. They beg for lunch money, gas money and rent money. Most of these people make over 70 grand a year. They don't have any savings because they don't care. Want to save millions? Drug test every City employee and I guarantee you 30 percent of the workforce will be gone. They will not pass the drug test. A lot of them don't do nothing anyway so guess what? They're in retirement while working! Cry babies. That's what they are. They make good money but they still want hand outs. These City employees complain about everything. Most people plan for retirement. Not these people. So what they have Mortgages and kids in school. Do does other retired people who don't get City pensions. City employees who do you think you are? You are no better than the next retiree who didn't work for the City. Want to supplement your retirement because you won't get Social Security? After you retire, go get a job. Then most of you lazy bums will know how it feels.

I am a City of Chicago employee. I have been for 27 years. Am I disappointed by the decision to phase out the healthcare? Yes I am. Am I going to cry about it? Nope. I am a planner. Always have been. I drive a 10 year old car. Been living in the same house for 25 years. I don't try to impress. I don't wear fancy clothes to work like some of my co-workers. I don't wear fancy jewelry to work like some of my co-workers. These are the same people who borrow money 3 days after payday. These are the same people who complain on the job. These are the same people who are crying about the Mayor's decision. I say cry on. I work with guys who pay child support to multiple women, drive automobiles with $800.00 car notes, but then they get on the job and bum money for lunch everyday. Some of these people have no clue. When Harold Washington became Mayor, he forced EVERY CITY EMPLOYEE to start paying into the pension plan. They were complaining back then. They were complaining that they didn't want a short check. So you can't win with certain people, especially the ones who think that they are owed something.

I am an early-retiree, widow from 36 years of City of Chicago employment. I left early due to health and family concerns. I do not expect any more than I earned. I will not get Social Security. Neither will Obamacare, portable HIPPA , State pool, or ICHIP plans save anyone with a pre-existing health problem who had an employee-provided health plan money. DO YOUR HOMEWORK PEOPLE!! Those of us with families to support and mortgages will suffer like everyone else. How many people over 50 do YOU know who DO NOT have a pre-existing condition? Frankly, the way Obamacare is panning out, it looks like we ALL are gonna get taken for a ride! I have an adult, disabled and dependent son. I struggle now to pay bills (alone) and care for my son's needs. My thought is that Emannuel will also fit into my category, if and when he retires. However, I am sure HE his City pension, Washington D.C. pension, bank accounts, and legal and/or other assets will be enough to cover expenses and healthcare for a most of families under ANY plan! Surely, he does not care about you or me! He is interested in popularity, power, and publicity. Hard decisions my butt! How hard is it to vote you and your cronies a raise? Our healthcare is more important than a basketball stadium or electoral fund. Moreover McCormick Place is a PRIVATE organization and most of us won't be able to play basketball there anyway! Why do they need a court? Why should Chicago taxpayers pay for it? The City retiree health plan does not include well-care which literally SUCKS and would balance the high cost of chronic illness that older people inevitably incur.! The monthly cost just to keep the retiree plan IS NOT CHEAP nor is it free on top of everything else! I do not know who out there thinks City employees don't work for their money and has the audacity to lump us all in one basket. I WAS not and AM not your "typical" do-nothing municipal worker. I worked weekends and holidays. I worked up to 5 to 6 hours (and sometimes) more after normal working hours were over! I did not borrow money for lunch or anything else and never had a "political connection" to get nor keep my job. I WORKED FOR MY LIVING AND EARNED IT! I took care of a family and went to college to better myself. I am NOT going to cry about Emmanuel's decision; but, I will say this..he should be careful about the decisions he makes as retirees are the same people that voted him and can be the ones that vote him out! There are more seniors than ever now and we are politically and socially aware and we DO vote! What he should have done was made the coverage phase-out applicable to all workers who retire after June 30, 2013. Not shaft those who have already given their lives to the service of this City and rightfully deserve the respect and consolation of a sustainable retirement. This is a literal kick in the a__ and it will not go unattended, challenged, or be forgotten.

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