Chesney Guest Column: Caring for Our Senior Citizens

As your State Representative, I take my responsibility to fight for the best quality of life for our senior citizens here in Northwest Illinois seriously. Our state owes a great deal of gratitude to retired Americans, and those about to retire, who have contributed so much to our community. I am determined to do everything I can to help provide security in your retirement years. My role is to be an advocate and connection to the resources and services that you deserve from your state government.

Under a new law I voted for, Illinoisans on Medicare are now able to switch supplemental plans without worrying about higher premiums, underwriting or pre-existing conditions. Prior to this new law, when supplemental plan rates increased, older adults were often denied the chance to switch to a less expensive plan. Senate Bill 147 establishes an annual open enrollment period for each Medicare supplemental policy holder between the age of 65 and 75 that begins on the policyholder’s birthday and lasts 45 days. During this open enrollment period, policyholders can switch to a new supplemental policy under their same insurance provider without being denied do to health status, allowing them to switch to a new plan that better fits their budget and their needs.

We all owe a great debt of gratitude to our state’s veterans and I am proud to have voted for several measures to support our senior veterans. One new law combats the exploitation of veterans in Illinois. House Bill 3865 requires advertisements for veteran and military service benefits to include that these services are available free of charge from federal, state and county veteran service offices. This change helps veterans avoid potential scams.

I also co-sponsored a new law for the surviving spouses and parents of our fallen service members. House Bill 20 provides free Gold Star license plates to a surviving widow, widower, or parent of a deceased member of the Armed Forces if that member lost his or her life while in service while in wartime.

Combating elder abuse is a top priority of mine, which is why I voted in favor of Senate Bill 701 that updates state practices aimed at protecting older residents. This new law enhanced protections by including reports of abandonment in the Adult Protective Services Act. It also strengthened protections against financial exploitation to include potential charges for trusted friends and acquaintances.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Illinois must be a state where retirees can afford to live, be near their family, and celebrate the milestones in the lives of their children and grandchildren. That’s why I am co-sponsoring HR 753, legislation opposing any effort that could impose a tax on retirement income in the State of Illinois.

Retirees are often the least equipped to shoulder the burden of additional taxation due to the fact that the vast majority live on a fixed income. Record-high inflation is already diminishing the fixed income upon which retirees in Illinois rely. Retirees currently pay federal income tax as well as sales taxes and property taxes. One of the only friendly tax policies Illinois offers today is that we do not currently tax retirement income as a state. By co-sponsoring this resolution, I am helping lead the effort in the General Assembly to make unequivocally clear that we must respect each individual’s lifetime of hard work by not taxing retirement income in the State of Illinois. Not now, not ever.