Retired city workers file lawsuit over shift to Obamacare - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Retired city workers file lawsuit over shift to Obamacare

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Retired city workers are asking a judge to block Mayor Emanuel from making them rely on Obamacare for their health insurance. It could cost Chicago taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

This affects most city retirees and it underscores how, after decades of grotesque financial mismanagement, the only choices left are painful ones. A spokesman for the lawsuit was a retired cop, wounded several times in the line of duty. Public employee unions hope that angry taxpayers staring at a doubling or even tripling of City Hall's property tax will empathize with Mike Underwood.

He moves slowly these days, in part because of arthritis he blames on being shot once and stabbed twice during 30 years as a patrol officer, but what bothers Mike Underwood the most right now is City Hall's plan to make him and his wife rely on Obamacare for health insurance. He considers it a betrayal.

"When I was hired, we were promised by Mayor Daley, the first Mayor Daley, that we'd have health insurance for ourselves and our wives for life," Underwood says.

A spokesman for City Hall insisted that Underwood and his wife, Virginia, will have insurance for life, though, as the current plan is phased out by 2017, costs and benefits will change as they have previously.

Referring to President Obama's Affordable Care Act, the spokesman said: "Retirees...will have a broad range of healthcare plan options available to them as the Illinois health insurance exchange goes into effect in 2014."

When Mayor Emanuel sent letters announcing the change last month to about 24,000 retired city workers, the watchdog Civic Federation praised the move, saying it could eventually save taxpayers $70 million or more each year.

But Underwood and other retirees won't know until September at the earliest what Obamacare's cost to them may be. A spokesman for the Illinois Department of Insurance told FOX 32 News that six insurance companies have so far submitted 165 different plans, all now under review.

The 62-year-old cop who was once named a Shoreline Hero by a North Side neighborhood group said he now faces co-pays of $750 a month for his and his wife's health insurance. He doesn't want to pay more.

"The mayor doesn't know, nobody knows what Obamacare entails, what it's gonna cover, how much it's gonna cost," Underwood says. "Nobody knows. It's a question the President of the United States couldn't answer."

With City Hall's four pension funds facing an unfunded liability of about $20 billion, the police fund has barely 30% of the money it needs, there are only painful choices ahead.

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