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Monday, February 3, 2014

No Constitutional Right to "Cost-Free" Health Insurance

A retired County employee sued the County of Milwaukee claiming a "taking" of her property in violation of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution after the County modified her retirement health insurance benefits.  The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the County, finding no unconstitutional taking.  Hussey v. Milwaukee County (7th Cir. Jan. 29, 2014).

Under the County's ordinance, retirees were entitled to the same health insurance benefits provided to current employees. When Hussey retired, the County paid the premiums for employees, and the plan had no deductibles or co-payments. After the County's health insurance plan changed to require deductibles and co-payments, Hussey filed a lawsuit claiming she had a property right to "cost-free" health insurance.  The County acknowledged she did have a property right, but only to the payment of her health insurance premiums.  The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the County, finding that the County's promise to pay "premiums" for its employees and retirees did not include any obligation to also pay a retiree's co-payments or deductibles.  In short, the County ordinance did not create an entitlement for retirees or current employees to receive "cost-free" health insurance. 

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink


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