The governor signed into law Thursday a measure requiring retirees from state government to pay for their health insurance. The retirees will still get their coverage through the state, but they’ll have to pay – an amount to be determined each year by the Department of Central Management Services, which may vary depending upon a retiree’s income.

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In discussing the matter a month ago, Gov. Pat Quinn said the state can no longer afford this by itself. “Just to have automatic payment of health care premiums for all that are retired is not really a good way to go. Our state can’t afford that,” he said.

AFSCME, the largest state employees’ union, objected to the bill, arguing that health care is a retirement benefit that should be determined through collective bargaining, not via legislation.

Heretofore, anyone who worked for the state for 20 years or more got their health care coverage free upon retirement, while those who worked for the state from eight to 20 years got a pro-rated subsidy. Retired lawmakers get free health insurance after four years of service and retired judges after six years.

This law does not apply to teachers.