Naperville council can’t revoke retired peers’ health coverage

<p>File Photo</p>

File Photo

It’s likely that former members of the Naperville City Council soon will be left to their own devices where matters of health insurance are concerned. However, those who already have a sufficient stretch of council service in their rear-view mirrors, and three of those still serving, will continue to qualify for the insurance benefit for the foreseeable future.

Current policy provides access to the same coverage offered to city employees and council members for council retirees, who cover the full premium and are eligible if they have completed the eight years of council service required to receive pension benefits through the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund. Those qualified for the coverage who remain in office or on the city’s staff roster pay no more than 25 percent of the cost.

Council members recently asked staff to see what it would take to suspend the post-retirement perk, as part of their ongoing discussion aimed at cancelling the benefit for their own part-time positions. That change, if approved, will take effect after next spring’s local elections and will come in the wake of the council members’ March vote to end their positions’ access to IMRF.

Dwight Pancottine, the city’s labor and employment attorney and acting human resources director, said state law forbids the council from making a local change affecting retirees’ insurance benefits.

“Because that right is governed and guaranteed by a specific state statute, the only method available for changing the benefit is through an amendment of state law,” Pancottine wrote in a May 6 council memo.

According to city spokeswoman Linda LaCloche, the only retired member of the council who receives the health coverage is Richard Furstenau, whose three terms stretched from 1999 to 2011. The current council members who will remain eligible to buy the coverage whenever they step down are Councilmen Doug Krause and Grant Wehrli, and Mayor A. George Pradel.

The health plan available to retirees is identical to those offered to active employees and current council members, LaCloche said.

All council members now receive the city-subsidized health coverage except Bob Fieseler, Paul Hinterlong and Wehrli. The city’s portion of the six officials’ individual and family premiums comes to about $71,000 annually.