CHICAGO (STMW) — Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle fired another shot at Cook County’s Chief Judge Timothy Evans Monday, proposing to cut off the nearly-free health insurance the county offers to judges.

Thanks to an obscure state law, circuit court judges are classified as county employees, because they get $500 a year from the county. So they are currently eligible for county health insurance for a percentage of their salary that works out to less than $1 a month.

The actual cost to the county ranges from $440 to $1,700 a month, Preckwinkle’s office said.

Preckwinkle has been feuding with Evans over the backlog of criminal cases in Cook County. But this latest initiative is “about creating a more fair system and a more responsible management of employee health-care benefits,” said her spokesman Owen Kilmer.

Under the proposal, employees considered part-timers would no longer pay a percentage of their salary, but would have to pay the actual cost of the insurance or get it somewhere else, such as the new health insurance marketplace created under the Affordable Care Act.

About 30 crossing guards, as well as commissioners of the Chicago Board of Elections, would also get the same deal, but most of the 400 people affected would be judges, the county said.

Judges are also eligible to get insurance from the state, which pays by far the greatest share of the judges’ six-figure salaries; circuit court judges earn $183,000 annually while associate judges make $174,000.

The proposal, which will save the county $4.4 million per year, will be introduced next week as part of Preckwinkle’s preliminary 2014 budget. Preckwinkle is “hopeful this will be adopted,” Kilmer said.

Evans’ office did not respond to a request for comment.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2013. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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