Health benefits on the way out ­-- gradually -- for Naperville council

 
 
Updated 11/18/2015 9:18 AM
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  • Health insurance for city council members in Naperville will be phased out after the next two elections in spring 2017 and 2019. Health insurance will remain available for the position of mayor.

      Health insurance for city council members in Naperville will be phased out after the next two elections in spring 2017 and 2019. Health insurance will remain available for the position of mayor. Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer May 2015

Naperville City Council will phase out health insurance availability for its members after the spring 2017 election.

Council health insurance benefits have been a thorny issue for at least the past two years, with previous pushes to remove them turning into political grandstanding matches about who accepts the benefits paid by taxpayers and who doesn't.

Despite action taken by a 7-1 vote Tuesday, the benefits won't go away immediately. That's because city council members cannot change their compensation -- which includes benefits -- while they are in office, city attorney Jill Wilger said. Any changes made during one term have to go into effect during the next term after an election.

Council members are on staggered terms, some expiring in 2017 and others in 2019. So fully removing health insurance availability for all Naperville council members will take nearly four years under the plan approved by all council members in attendance but opposed by Mayor Steve Chirico. Council member Paul Hinterlong was absent.

The people who are elected in 2017 to fill the expiring two-year seats held by Judith Brodhead, Kevin Coyne, Kevin Gallaher and John Krummen will be the first who are not be eligible to receive medical, dental or vision benefits through the city.

Meanwhile, the council members currently serving four-year terms -- Becky Anderson, Patty Gustin, Hinterlong and Rebecca Boyd-Obarski -- will continue to have health benefits available to them until their terms expire in 2019.

Coyne recently brought up the latest round of efforts to remove health benefits from council compensation. He said Tuesday he wished the change could have been made all at once -- in 2019 -- for consistency.

But others, including Gustin, pushed for the benefits to be cut beginning with the expiration of the two-year terms in 2017.

That was fine with Coyne.

"I want to bring closure to this issue," he said.

Removal of health benefits for council members does not affect the position of mayor, for whom health insurance will continue to be available. Chirico is receiving medical, dental and vision benefits that cost the city $530 to cover 80 percent of the premium, while he pays the remaining 20 percent.

He said Tuesday he plans to continue receiving those benefits, especially as he is working full-time at his duties as mayor instead of devoting time to his business. Chirico said he voted against the plan to eliminate council health insurance because he sees no issue with the city providing it.

"I still feel it's a fair compensation for the council," he said.

Since new council members were seated in May, two of them enrolled in health benefits, for which the city pays 80 percent of the premium and the council member pays 20 percent.

Brodhead receives medical, dental and vision benefits that cost the city $878 a month. She said she decides year-by-year whether to participate in city health plans, but she likely will continue receiving coverage until the expiration of her term -- and the benefits -- in spring 2017.

Gustin briefly received dental benefits that cost the city $57.94 a month. But she said Tuesday that once she found out the city was covering the majority of the premium, she canceled her coverage; she thought she would be responsible for paying 100 percent of the premium.

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