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“It was quite a shock”: Retired state employees see health insurance terminated

Bloomington, Ill. (HOI) - We've all gotten letters in the mail that look like a scam, but hundreds of Illinois residents are afraid they will lose their insurance benefits. The scare came after a notification was sent out to retired state employees telling them time is up for their coverage on January 1.

Susan Owens has enjoyed retirement the last six years after she dedicated 18 years to Illinois State University. But she retired early due to a pre-existing condition she didn't know about until later in life.

"I get a dose and a pour. My husband gives it to me every week," said Owens. "And it's $18,000 a week for that drug."

Owens also needs a shaker vest and nebulizer treatment daily, so the costs add up. She thought the letter from the Illinois Department of Central Management was a scam.

"This was dated December 3 and it's not on official letterhead. It doesn't even have a return address or anything," Owens said.

That's why Owens decided she should call Health Alliance to make sure it was real. The insurance group confirmed it was a true notice and she will need a new plan for the next year.

"It seems like they just took my medication out from under me, so it was quite a shock," Owens said.

But Susan isn't alone, as hundreds have called Governor JB Pritzker's office with the same issue. State Representative Dan Brady (R-Normal) says someone dropped the ball.

"People have got things going on in their lives. In one case, an individual has terminal cancer and they get inundated by insurance and issues," Brady said. "Things are very confusing for them. There are unique situations that we need to address and rectify and I'm asking the administration to help us do that."

Brady hopes the solution will be found quickly because he knows people need their drugs. Owens says she doesn't know what she will do if her prescriptions aren't covered.

"I can't put my family in that kind of debt for my life, so I'll just refuse the drug," Owens said. "I don't want to do that, but if I can't find any recourse I'm not going to put my family in that kind of solution."

For now, Owens says she will just hope and pray for everyone stuck without coverage.

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Mike Miletich

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