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What’s worse than an unfunded mandate? An unfunded mandate worsening existing problems.

Illinois, like the rest of the nation, faces high healthcare costs and a nursing shortage. But check out the Safe Patient Limits Act (House Bill 2604 and Senate Bill 1908) now moving through the Illinois General Assembly. It’s thoroughly discussed in a Belleville News-Democrat article from last week.

It would force hospitals to hire more nurses by setting minimum nurse/patient ratios. The Illinois Health and Hospital Association says the legislation would require about 20,000 more nurses in the state at a cost of nearly $2 billion, according to the article. That cost would surely show up in higher insurance premiums.

No, say supporters, hospitals don’t know what’s in their own interests. “Safe patient limits have no negative impact on the financial performance of hospitals,” their study says, and they might even be made more profitable. In fact, hiring more nurses will make nurse retention easier and produce a range of other benefits not just for patients but for hospitals.

Whose study says so? That would be our usual friends, the Illinois Economic Policy Institute. They’ll produce a study to support pretty much anything organized labor wants, and it wants this bill. Their last study told us not to talk about pensions as a “crisis” and not to worry about their unfunded liabilities. The new one doesn’t mention that Massachusetts voters, fearing higher costs, rejected a similar law by 70% to 30% in November. It barely won a majority vote even from nurses. Only California has a similar law to what’s proposed for Illinois.

I don’t know how to make healthcare more affordable or how to fix the nursing shortage, but an unfunded government mandate to force more hiring doesn’t pass the smell test for me.

-Mark Glennon


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The solution is, discourage ALL people from being nurses. Workers should try to get hired as Illinois public school teachers instead. Start by making taxpayers understand that nurses’ compensations are half that of teachers’ compensations. 1. Nurses pay for their own (legally mandated) third party payment health ‘insurance’ premiums, while teachers (in Woodstock IL) pay only 15% of the premiums (taxpayers ‘pick-up’ the balance) while working, and zero percent–that is, NONE, of ‘insurance’ premiums after they retire at age 53 (taxpayers are obligated by Illinois Constitution to pay for the entire OPEB cost, no matter what that cost shall ever… Read more »

Sharon Thomas

So true! As I nurse, i thank you for nailing it on the head.


Bless you for what you do. People have no idea.

Mark M

My high school friend from a North Shore community just retired from her job as a 5th grade teacher in her mid 50’s on a pension which pays her around 84k a year. She was making mid-90’s at retirement, but with the COLA increase she will soon be at her last working salary, and in five years she will be making more in retirement than she made while working. Full health care is included too. Private sector actors have to have at least 2 million in their 401k’s – not easy to do unless one makes an upper middle class… Read more »


You may have more intimate knowledge of this case, but for the sake of argument you might be passing along the ever increasing exaggerations of neighborhood gossip. So, let me give you the usual case for this kind of a situation where one has a full career with the maximum pension and healthcare benefits that allows. Let’s say your full career teacher has a consecutive-four-year-high average salary of $90,000 out of her last ten years of teaching. Her first year pension is based on that rather than her highest or last-year salary. She is eligible for a first year pension… Read more »


He didn’t say when she retired. In your example, it would take 8 years after the retirement date to reach the $84K threshold. She could still be below the Medicare eligibility age of 65.

J. A. Herzrent

However accurate the data, the private sector normally requires a substantial actuarial reduction for commencement prior to normal retirement (generally age 65), as does the PBGC. Similarly, there are frequently actuarial reductions for spouse coverage if a spouse outlives the retiree. Health care during retirement is rarely provided to retirees at zero cost and seldom provided to survivors. COLA increases are almost unheard of other than in multi-employer plans which are running out of money already. Even the major league baseball players’ plan is in difficulty since it’s mainly funded by revenues from the All Star Game, which are insufficient.… Read more »


1. You fail to take ‘pension spiking ‘ into account. There are several ways those final 4 years’ salary numbers are inflated to get that firat year pension amount to be that high. 2. Woodsock teachers are contractually entitled to OPEBs (other post employment benefits) of 100% health insurance premium coverage starting at early retirement which can be age 53. Teacher retiree health insurance coverage must be obtained through TRIPS , which now charges around $7000 annually per retiree. Maybe you could look at the teachers union contract in this district, especially the sections describing pension spiking policies and OPEBs,… Read more »


Susan, Your comment that I didn’t take into account any “spiking” effect involved in the final years of this female teacher isn’t true nor even relevant since the $90,000 highest-four year average I mentioned was based upon the original person’s statement that her final year’s salary was $84,000, a figure that may well have include the spiking effect you mentioned. That’s my response to your first paragraph. In responding to your 2nd paragraph, yes, her district may well authorize “retirement” at age 53, but the state teacher retirement system (TRS) cannot allow payments until one reaches age 55 as a… Read more »



I see I made an error in my comment a few minutes ago where I stated the original commenter on this topic said the retired teacher’s final salary was $84,000. Not so! He said her final salary was in the mid 90 thousands. He then said her expected first year pension was $84,000. So, I then gave the assumption that her highest-four-consecutive-years’ salary average might be roughly $90,000. That’s the basis from which her first year’s pension is determined.

mark mc

I am not passing along neighborhood gossip. Hers is an unusual case. She was on disability the last two years of her service, filed a workers comp claim as well, had a disability discrimination claim as well, and her pension and compensation and resulting settlement is a result of her circumstance. OK, I get it, I should have mentioned it, but she is not alone in working the system. She is well below the age for Medicare. I am an executive with a Fortune 20 company, which means frankly working for 70 hours a week for years, and I know… Read more »


This has got to be the best reader post I’ve ever seen on wirepoint!