Schweizer's first bill protects access to healthcare for retired teachers

The House Personnel and Pensions committee has unanimously approved State Representative Brandun Schweizer's first bill, which seeks to provide members of the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) with more peace of mind when it comes to their healthcare benefits. His legislation will protect TRS enrollees from lapses in healthcare services when the state makes changes to their insurance benefits, like it did in 2022.

In 2022, Medicare-eligible state retirees were summarily informed that Aetna insurance would be the only Medicare option available to them. Moreover the change was effective immediately. This forced many people to switch healthcare providers at a moment's notice when they learned their provider did not accept Aetna. In the rural parts of the state where there is a shortage of healthcare providers, this led to gaps in services for many enrollees while they looked for new providers that would take the insurance. It was of particular of concern to those who learned that Carle Hospital of Urbana did not accept Aetna at the time. Carle has since negotiated a contract with the insurance provider. 

“Families in east-central Illinois do not have many hospitals or medical facilities to receive care at,” explained Schweizer. “It is imperative that legislation is brought forward and passed through both the House and Senate and then signed by the Governor to ensure the situation from 2022 does not happen again.”

Rep. Schweitzer's legislation would prevent a repeat of the state's lack of timely notification of a benefit change in 2022 that left many retirees without healthcare and in some cases footing the bill themselves.

House Bill 4972 requires the Illinois Department of Central Management Services (CMS), the state agency tasked with handling health insurance and benefits for the state’s employees and retirees, to notify enrollees of the Teachers Retirement System at least 60 days in advance of changes made to their benefits. This would provide enrollees adequate time to find other healthcare options if necessary and allow healthcare systems enough time to negotiate with any new insurance carriers. 

“This bill helps to minimize future worry when changes are made to TRS recipients’ benefits," said Schweizer. "I thank my colleagues for seeing the need for this bill and allowing it to advance in the House.” 

House Bill 4972 will be voted upon by the House of Representatives later this spring. If passed, the legislation will head to the Senate for a hearing.

Rep. Brandun Schweizer was appointed to the 104th House District in December of 2023, to fill the vacancy of retiring Rep. Mike Marron. The 104th House District is comprised of parts of Vermilion and Champaign counties, in east central Illinois.