Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Who Fights for Us? by Fred Klonsky

I received a phone call from Jeri Shanahan today. “Sorry if I am pestering you,” Ms. Shanahan said. “Not at all, Ms. Shanahan.”

Ms. Shanahan is a retired Illinois teacher who is not Medicare eligible. According to the law she doesn’t qualify for Medicare because she retired too many years ago. If she moved to Arizona or Florida she would pay half of what she pays for health insurance. She chooses to remain in Illinois, so she gets socked.

A bill was introduced in the Illinois legislature to address this situation that impacts maybe 500 teachers. Ms. Shanahan told me the bill failed. It had either opposition or no support from the IFT and the IEA. Ms. Shanahan wasn’t sure and I couldn’t find out.

I wasn’t shocked to hear that. Some days I feel like the state teacher unions aren’t just not for us. They are against us. Us being retired teachers.

Glen Brown posted about this issue a number of times a few years ago. Here are the links:

Amid all the Medicare Advantage confusion, have we forgotten there are approximately 600 TRS retirees paying more for health insurance than anyone else?

Why are 602 teacher retirees who live in Illinois still paying more for their health insurance?

When Glen wrote about it in 2013 there were about 600 teachers impacted: “Retirees, 65 and older and not eligible for Social Security and Medicare, will pay the highest premium for Teachers’ Choice Health Plan in 2014: $719.96 (Illinois Department of Central Management Services). They are also paying more than twice as much as retirees not eligible for Social Security and Medicare but living out-of-state.”

Now the number is 500. It is not 100 less because the problem is being solved, if you get my drift. The state is just waiting them out.

Last year when Glen and I were Retired delegates to the IEA Representative Assembly, he brought the issue up. “She should get a job and get her 40 quarters,” one IEA Retired leader told us, referring to Jeri Shanahan.

That right there is some cold stuff.

Shortly after the RA we got a message back from IEA lobbyist Will Lovett. It read, in part: “Our larger fear during the current legislative session is the fiscal health of the TRIP program. The Governor has proposed eliminating the state contribution to TRIP entirely.  We have had conversations about this concern dating back to 2011.   As you are aware, TRIP is funded by premiums paid by retirees, contributions by school districts, contributions by active members, and the state in turn matches the active teacher contribution.  The Governor’s proposed budget would eliminate between $95-$100 million in state funding for TRIP.  The program is roughly a $500 million program.  We wish that we could talk about a benefit enhancement or premium reduction for participants but protecting the program as it currently exists is our main priority in this current budgetary environment.”

Fairness for 500 retired teachers? The IEA has bigger fish to fry. She and the other 500 retirees are just not a priority in the current environment.

This weekend the IEA Representative Assembly is meeting again. Neither Glen or I will be there. Will anybody speak for Jeri Shanahan and the other 500 retired teachers who are getting ripped off?

Not likely.

Here is Jeri Shanahan’s testimony before the Commission on Government Forecasting & Accountability.

The aforementioned commentary was originally posted on Fred Klonsky’s Blog, April 12, 2016.

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