Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel may finally do what he and other politicians should have done a long time ago: end costly health insurance benefits paid to city retirees.
But why now? Simple: Because ObamaCare gives Emanuel an easy way to shift the city’s costs to federal taxpayers. While it may be tempting to call him opportunistic, we really can’t blame the mayor if he finally does the right thing, even if he’s only doing now because he knows federal taxpayers will absorb the cost. This option, which is one of two strongly recommended in a Jan. 11, 2013, report by the city’s Retiree Healthcare Benefits Commission, will save the city more than $61 million a year and result in a bulk of city retirees under age 65 being eligible for federal ObamaCare subsidies with which they can purchase insurance. This will, however, cost federal taxpayers anywhere from $8 million to more than $47 million annually.
So while you can blame Emanuel and all the other Chicago politicians who helped cause the City of Chicago’s current fiscal crisis by providing cushy pension and health insurance benefits to city workers that start at age 55 (benefits that the rest of us could only dream of), including benefits the city just negotiated last fall with the Chicago Teachers Union, you can’t blame the Mayor if he does what should have been done a long time ago, with or without ObamaCare; that is, stop the payment of benefits the city cannot afford.
Instead, the blame rests squarely on ObamaCare itself, which will cost our nation more than $1.6 trillion over the next 10 years – more than double its projected cost – while it reduces accessibility to care through a system of price controls that drive out medical providers and make health care harder to find. Add to that skyrocketing insurance premium costs, disincentives for employers to hire workers and the creation of a board of government bureaucrats that will make life and death decisions affecting America’s seniors, and we are in the midst of a recipe for disaster. The situation unfolding in Chicago – where young retirees may be turning to ObamaCare on the federal taxpayers’ dime – is just another bad consequence of a bad law.
But neither city of Chicago retirees nor taxpayers should be in this situation. Real health care reform could have avoided this problem, beginning with changing federal law to allow individual ownership of insurance policies that are not dependent on employment or retirement. Real reform would have increased, not cut – as ObamaCare does – health savings accounts that empower individuals to shop around and make informed choices on purchasing the health care that best suits their needs. Real reform would be driven by consumers, not the government or insurance companies. Real reform would have empowered low income individuals with choice, instead of keeping them trapped in a Medicaid system where care and doctors are becoming harder and harder to find. Instead, ObamaCare expands this failing program, thus harming the very people it is claims to help.
As illustrated by the retiree benefit crisis facing the city of Chicago, all ObamaCare does is provide a means to shift costs from one set of taxpayers to another. Until we call out our elected officials who hide behind the manipulative name of a law that promises protection and affordability, but in fact kills both, we will continue to suffer the consequences. But don’t blame Emanuel if he eliminates retiree health insurance benefits because of ObamaCare. He’d not only be doing what’s best for Chicago, but also not letting a serious crisis go to waste.