DuPage board member seeking to end health insurance perk

Updated 1/11/2019 6:47 PM
  • Tim Elliott

    Tim Elliott

Taxpayer-subsidized health insurance for DuPage County Board members could be eliminated next year if one Republican member can convince enough of his colleagues to end the perk.

Tim Elliott said he raised the issue of health benefits to board Chairman Dan Cronin months ago, but decided to do it again after the Daily Herald printed an editorial on the topic this week.

The Glen Ellyn Republican said he was "thrilled" to see the newspaper call on boards in the suburbs to end health benefits for their members.

Elliott said he would "at least like to have a discussion" about eliminating health and dental insurance for DuPage board members. Currently, seven of the 18 county board members participate in the health insurance program at the county. Eight get dental insurance through the county.

"It's a legitimate question that ought to be discussed," Elliott said. "Why do elected officials get health benefits for part-time jobs when most of our constituents don't?"

In addition to health and dental insurance, DuPage board members are paid $52,102 a year -- although they have frozen their salaries and the salary of the board chairman through fiscal 2022.

On average, the health insurance is costing the county about $10,300 a year for each of the seven board members who get it. When it comes to dental insurance, the county spends an average of $325 per year for each board member who uses it.

The total cost is far from the nearly $240,000 a year that Kane County is spending to provide health and dental benefits for its board members.

Lake County, meanwhile, is providing health insurance for 18 of its 21 board members at an annual cost of roughly $300,000, officials said.

The amount Kane spends has new county board member Mo Iqbal calling to eliminate the benefits.

"This is an outrageous amount of compensation for a part-time elected position in our county where per capita income is $30,000 and median household income is a mere $70,000," Iqbal wrote in a letter to his fellow board members.

In Cook County, board members can enroll for both health and dental insurance that costs about $18,000 per subscriber. All but two are enrolled in at least one of the programs. There has been no talk of eliminating any of those perks.

While DuPage isn't spending as much as other counties, Elliott said "it's not the dollar amount that is the issue."

"It's the principle," he said. "I'm bothered by the fact that elected officials may be perceived to receive -- or do receive -- benefits that aren't available to our constituents."

The DuPage board members getting health insurance are Democrats Elizabeth Chaplin of Downers Grove, Sadia Covert of Naperville, Mary FitzGerald Ozog of Glen Ellyn and Dawn DeSart of Aurora and Republicans Jim Healy of Naperville, Pete DiCianni of Elmhurst and Brian Krajewski of Downers Grove.

Board members getting dental insurance are DiCianni, Covert, DeSart, Krajewski, Ozog, Healy, Republican Sam Tornatore of Roselle and Republican Grant Eckhoff of Wheaton.

By law, the elimination of the benefits can't take effect until after the next county board election in the fall 2020. But a vote to eliminate the benefits must happen no later than May 2020.

In the meantime, Elliott said he's going to speak to fellow board members individually to see where they stand on the issue.

"I want to begin the discussion now so that we're in a position to take some action," he said, "if that's what the board wants to do next year."

• Daily Herald staff writers Mick Zawislak, Jim Fuller and Jake Griffin contributed to this report.

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