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Not anymore: IL unions don’t want Obamacare as their health-care choice

By   /   May 16, 2013  /   News  /   5 Comments

By Benjamin Yount | Illinois Watchdog

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois’ largest public employee union is no longer excited about the future of Obamacare.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday let it slip that he plans to move retired city of Chicago workers from a city-funded

FOR YOU, NOT US: AFSCME loved Obamacare when they didn’t have to enroll.

health care system to President Obama’s national health-care system.

“This uncertainty will cause anxiety and fear for tens of thousands of seniors who gave their working lives to public service,” Henry Bayer, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 31 executive director, told the Chicago Tribune on Wednesday.

“Our union will be working to get answers to our many questions … and to protect access to affordable health care for city retirees now and in the future,” Bayer added.

Uncertainty and anxiety. Not exactly the words national AFSCME President Lee Saunders used to describe Obamacare last year.

“We will work at the state level to ensure that as many Americans as possible will receive the coverage they deserve,” Saunders said in June. “States should take advantage of the incentives in Obamacare and move forward to implement this far-reaching reform.”

AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall said the union is concerned about how Emamnuel is using Obamacare.

“The Affordable Care Act is meant to make health care more affordable and more accessible. It is not intended to relieve employers— the city of Chicago or anyone else — of their responsibility to their employees or retirees,” Lindall said.

Ben Domenech, a research fellow at the Heartland Institute, said Emanuel is simply following the union’s advice, and taking advantage of Obamacare.

“Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s decision to shift retirees from their existing systems and onto Obamacare is a perfectly rational move, and an illustration of the decisions employers across the country will face in the coming years,” Domech said. “When it comes to employer dumping, Rahm Emanuel is just ahead of the curve.”

NO SALE: Chicago FOP’s Dougherty can’t sell Obamcare to police union.

But Chicago’s Fraternal Order of Police did speak about its new concerns.

“There have been some positive things that have come out of Obamacare,” FOP vice president Bill Dougherty said as he pointed to expanded coverage for veterans. “But I don’t know what (the impact on police officers) will be.”

Dougherty said he won’t recommend Obamacare to rank-and-file officers in Chicago because no one knows whether Congress will tweak or repeal the new national health-care system.

“You can’t sell something to your members that you don’t even know about yourself,” Dougherty added.

The Emanuel administration said the city needs to move retired city workers to Obamacare to save money.

The Chicago Tribune reports Chicago spent $109 million on retiree health care for nearly 37,000 retired workers. By 2023, those numbers are expected to skyrocket to $541 million to provide care for 47,000 retirees and their families.

Emanuel has been quiet about a health-care plan, but his spokeswoman, Kathleen Strand, said in a statement that Chicago must act to control costs.

“The retirement healthcare system as it stands today is fiscally unsustainable, and we have a responsibility to ensure a secure financial

GOTTA CHANGE: Chicago’s mayor looks to Obamacare to save money.

path for Chicago taxpayers,” Strand told the Tribune.

Police officers and firefighters who retire at 55 but are not yet eligible for Medicare would not be forced to move to Obamacare because of union contracts.

Workers who retired from the city of Chicago before 1989 would also be exempt from the move to Obamacare because of a legal settlement.

Dougherty expects the courts to weigh-in on Emanuel’s move, as well. Chicago and its retirees have been battling over the cost of retiree health-care since the 1980s.

Contact Benjamin Yount at [email protected] and find him on Twitter @ILWatchdog.


Ben formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.

  • OldTimerMO

    All Federal and public Union employees should be on it or nobody should!

  • If a public option had been allowed to be included in the Affordable Care Act, I would definitely agree. However, there is no “Obamacare System.”

    What they want to do is back out of their constitutional obligation and reduce the benefits these employees worked their whole lives thinking they would have. That is what AFSCME is against.

    The retirement system is fiscally unsustainable, but that isn’t the fault of the employees who have always paid their share into it. It is the fault of the legislators who didn’t make payments and took funds out of the pension system to pay for tax cuts and loopholes for their corporate sponsors.

  • Red Raspberry

    “Gave their lives to public service.” I don’t get it. I worked at a factory for 30 years and ended up with a pension of $600 a month I gave my life to that company.

  • Obaaaaaaaama sheep get sheared

    Stupid unions stepped in poop and DRAGED it through all our homes,now they don’t like it.I hope they all get sick and have to lay on the floor in the emergency room shetting their pants for hours waiting their turn like everyone else they screwed…They thought they was going to get more than the rest of us and got mud in their dumb faces.

  • Echo Star

    The union motto of ‘Loot the Future to Bribe the Present’ is beginning to fall in on itself. Unfortunately Obamacare has given cities away to push real change further down the road.