Funds for health claims depleted

By Caryn Rosenberg

Illinois has already depleted its funds to pay for its employees’ medical and dental claims, and NIU employees are being forced to do without promised health insurance benefits.

“The funds used to run out at the beginning of June, but last year they ran out in April,” Vice President of Business and Operations Pat Hewitt said. “The year before last, they ran out in May.”

Hewitt said the problem is a result of poor budgetary planning on the part of the state.

“The budget has stayed the same while the number of claims has increased,” Hewitt said. “Apparently there are no plans to increase the budget—there is a history of knowing about the

issue and still not addressing it.”

As a result, Hewitt said, the promise made to state employees to receive health care benefits should be followed by an asterisk.

“Employees are not covered for 12 months—only seven,” Hewitt said. “So if you’re going to get sick, you should do it during the first part of the year.”

ewitt said the problem will not be solved until the legislature begins funding at an adequate level.

“It will only continually get worse,” Hewitt said. “The legislature needs to meet the promises made to employees and until the legislature faces its responsibilities, employees will continue to suffer and so will the health care providers.”

JoAnn Bergren, assistant manager of the NIU insurance office, said although NIU employees pay monthly premiums for insurance coverage, some cannot get the medical attention they need because their claims will not be covered.

“Many people who have planned surgery or visits are putting them off until the fall when they know it will be covered,” Bergren said.

Bergren said insurance checks cannot be released until revenues come into the insurance fund.

“We are getting a lot of calls and questions about unclaimed bills, but not as many as last year,” Bergren said. “We all understand the sad situation the state is in.”