Seniors facing health care crisis, courtesy of Quinn

Seniors facing health care crisis, courtesy of Quinn

By Josh Harms

I wanted to give everyone a quick update about something that is affecting many of our retired state employees and could end up costing taxpayers more money.

Illinois recently rolled out a new Medicare Advantage program that was intended to reduce the cost of health care given to retirees in state-managed pension systems.

However, due to changes imposed by Gov. Pat Quinn and his administration, many seniors have been receiving notices that they will no longer be able to keep their current health insurance provider and, in some cases, they will not be able to keep their current doctor.

Particularly affected are retirees enrolled in the Champaign-Urbana-based Health Alliance medical care insurance system, and the 6,000 retirees possessing existing doctor-patient relationships with the medical professionals affiliated with the Carle Foundation Hospital and Carle Physician Group.

These individuals have been instructed by the Quinn administration to find new health care providers no later than Jan. 1, 2014. Many of these individuals have two or more chronic illnesses, and face challenges in moving their care to a new insurer or physicians' clinic.

Health Alliance had submitted a Medicare Advantage proposal that would have been less expensive to the state than the accepted proposals from three nationwide health insurance firms, but the Department of Central Management Services had imposed specifications that were allegedly designed to prevent Health Alliance's bid from being opened or considered.

The General Assembly's Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability held a hearing on the Medicare Advantage situation on Wednesday, Oct. 23. Members of all four caucuses have voiced their anger at the Quinn administration for the botched rollout of the Medicare Advantage program and for throwing out Health Alliance's bid, which happened to be the lowest of all four bids.

Gov. Quinn and his administration should have notified seniors of this change long before now and it is deplorable that he would place them into this terrible crisis with their health care.

On Tuesday, legislation was filed by Rep. Raymond Poe (R-Springfield), House Bill 3719, to increase the General Assembly's power to examine and oversee administrative decisions involving Medicare benefits. I am co-sponsoring this bill because I believe this is a great piece of legislation that is very much needed right now.

The situation continues to evolve and I expect there will be more hearings on this matter, but for now it appears that Gov. Quinn intends to force retired state employees to choose a new health insurance provider.

State Rep. Josh Harms, R-Watseka, represents the 106th District.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Sid Saltfork wrote on November 03, 2013 at 9:11 am

Thank you, State Representative Josh Harms.  I am concerned though about increasing the General Assembly's power to examine and oversee administrative decisions involving Medicare benefits.  I worked for the State of Illinois for 40 plus years.  I really want less involvement in my life with my ex-employer.  I paid into Social Security for 48 years; and I don't want my ex-employer dictorially removing me from the Medicare that I paid into.

Here is what I want; and what is protected by the State of Illinois Constitution.  I want my earned pension honored with no "diminishment, or impairment".  I want my ex-employer to give me the amount of money that a Medicare Supplement would cost me annually.  That would be the cheaper route to follow on insurance per retiree.  Basically, I want my ex-employer to abide by the State of Illinois Constitution.

I realize that "the FIX is ON" though.  The judges who will decide on the constitutionality of the issue are "exempt from pension reform".  At least, one legislator has encouraged that the members of the General Assembly be "exempt" also.  Once the retirees are forced onto an ex-employer chosen Medicare Advantage plan; "pension reform" will happen to the state, university, and teacher retirees.  They will be told to either give up their COLAs, or have No insurance.  That is the "choice" that Cullerton talks about.  Of course, this will be after the Medicare choice period this fall.  That means that the retiree can choose to have No insurance until the Medicare choice period again next fall; or give up their financial future by giving up their COLAs.

This is a dirty deal that Quinn is undoubtedly benefiting from.  However; I am skeptical about more political personalities getting involved in my earned pension, and health insurance.

BlahBlahBlah2013 wrote on November 05, 2013 at 11:11 am

It's almost comical that whenever Health Alliance loses a bid the bid itself is deemed, "botched" or "unfair". Another opportunity for politicians, especially C. Rose, to be viewed as a man of the people. Likely Mr. Rose will end up on HAMP's payroll someday as a, "consultant."

Also, it was made clear at the COGFA hearings that members could continue to go to Carle and see their own doctors and they might pay less, more, or the same. Also, Carle can choose to contract with any of the winners of the bid. If they don't, members should blame Carle for protecting HAMP. Of course, the politicians, and especially Health Alliance, prefer to use scare tactics on the very people they are trying to convince they are helping.

Politics as usual isn't just reserved for CMS or Quinn. It's alive and well at every level, including the corporate level, HAMP, and the local political level.


Sid Saltfork wrote on November 05, 2013 at 2:11 pm

As a retired state employee; I appreciate Chapin Rose, Mike Fredrichs, Chad Hayes, and the others who have asked questions regarding the 6,000 of us who are being switched to a Medicare Advantage program. 

I encourage the state, and university retirees to attend the meetings being held to discuss the new plans.  Remember that Dec. 13th is the Deadline for enrolling in one of the "chosen" plans.  Look at the plans on the CMS website.  You can access it through your pension system website.  Christie Clinic is approved for one of the plans for those who go to Christie.  I do not know about the "pre-existing condition" clauses on the new plans being forced on the retirees.  My opinion is that the ex-employer is not honoring it's contract with the retirees to begin with.  It goes without saying that the retirees do not trust their ex-employer.

Yes, "politics as usual" is the motto for the Land of Thieves.  I do not give a hoot about the insurance companies, corrupt CMS, and Mr. Fuddles.  I do care about the 6,000 of us locally who are being sacrificed for bribes, corporate profits, and second or third homes.