Retired city workers say they’re suffering after losing health insurance

WGN Investigates
Data pix.

CHICAGO — It was a cost-cutting move that saved Chicago taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.

But the former city workers who were affected say there’s an untold human cost — one that can’t and shouldn’t be ignored.

Among the perks promised to older city workers — affordable health insurance in retirement.

But in 2013, then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced he was ending the benefit to save cash.

Retirees who started working before 1986 were hit the hardest.

They never contributed to Medicare during their employment — the city’s choice, not theirs.

As a result, many now don’t qualify for government health insurance, even at age 65.

“It’s a kick in the gut but I have to deal with it,” said former city worker Dan Sheehan.

The retirees can buy health insurance through the city. But they pay the full freight because Emanuel cut the subsidy.

For a single retiree, the annual cost is now more than $33,000, whereas before it cost a few thousand dollars.

“There are about 22,000 retirees — about 10,000 don’t qualify for Medicare,” said Clint Krislov, the retirees’ Chicago-based attorney. “They’ve left these people high, dry and sick to deal with it on their own. Thanks for all that. Now, get lost. What kind of a city does that?”

The retirees are suing the city. The case continues to wind its way through the court system.

In the meantime, they’re calling on Mayor Lori Lightfoot to restore the benefit.

Krislov said he asked Lightfoot’s legal team to qualify the 10,000 retirees for Medicare. That would cost an estimated $100 million the first year, though Krislov notes it would decline over time.

He said he’s still waiting on a response.

A spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Law declined to comment because of pending litigation.

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