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Emanuel health coverage
Jeff Johnson to City Workers Present and Past
*Emanuel health coverage move: About 24,000 retired City Hall workers, their spouses and children next year will lose what remains of their city health insurance subsidies under one of Mayor Emanuel’s cost-saving efforts.
That leaves retirees with a couple of options, should the subsidy phase-out plan withstand an ongoing court challenge: buy health insurance privately, rely on Medicare alone if they qualify, find a plan through exchanges set up under the federal Affordable Care Act or go without coverage.
Soon, they will have another option: Joining a plan the city put together with Blue Cross-Blue Shield.
The city recently explained the plan to the boards of all four city pension funds, which all agreed to give retirees the option of having their health insurance premiums deducted from their benefit checks.
City Comptroller Erin Keane said Friday that some retired workers, particularly those who aren’t yet on Medicare, can get better deals on the health care exchanges.
But the idea was to give retired workers “options that are not available on the marketplace.” With Blue Cross they can stick with “a vendor and provider in a network that they’re familiar with.”
That would not be inexpensive. Those not on Medicare who choose the plan with the least out-of-pocket costs would pay $1,466 a month just for themselves, $2,610 for a couple and $3,622 for a family. Prices on the less-expensive plan, which has a higher deductible, also aren’t cheap, ranging from $1,295 a month to $3,198.
For the majority of retired city workers on Medicare, the top plan’s cost would be $339 a month for an individual. The cheapest back-up plan, which would not cover less of the costs for medical care, is $59 a month.
Retired workers will soon receive more information on the plans, Keane said. Blue Cross agents will be available to sort through the options of the city plan, and the city also is setting up a way for the retired workers to get information on the health care exchanges via phone, she added.
Emanuel touts the three-year phase-out of the subsidies as one of his major cost-saving efforts since becoming mayor in 2011. Next year, city health care costs will be about $90 million less annually than they were in 2013, before the phase-out began.
Some city retirees are still getting subsidies. They include retired firefighters and police officers who don’t yet qualify for Medicare and are guaranteed supplemental coverage under their union contracts and workers who retired before Aug. 23, 1989, a group protected by a settlement in a court case. (Hal Dardick)