In 1988, 66% of large firms provided retired workers with health insurance–by 2008, only 31% did. Early retirees shouldn’t be faced with losing their life savings just to have health insurance coverage. The reform bill signed into law in March helps early retirees by creating a re-insurance program (until the exchanges are available) and helps employers who are facing skyrocketing costs for covering early retirees.Ã‚Â This $5 billion program will help protect coverage for early retirees age 55 and older (who are not yet eligible for Medicare) while reducing premiums for employers. Today, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that employers will be able to take advantage of the program starting June 1st, in advance of the June 21st start date required by the law.
Speaker Pelosi on the news:
Today's announcement is good for our employers and good for America's early retirees. Americans deserve access to quality, affordable health insurance at every age and every stage of life — and employers deserve the financial relief to do right by their employees while competing in the global marketplace.
In recent years, the skyrocketing costs of health care have forced employers to choose between staying competitive and providing their workers and retirees with quality health coverage. In the last two decades alone, the portion of large firms covering retired employees has dropped by more than half — leaving those too young for Medicare without access to the affordable care they need.
The Early Retiree Reinsurance Program will invest $5 billion in financial assistance for employer health plans offered to early retirees. Lasting until the new health care exchanges created by health insurance reform law are up and running, this initiative will provide premium relief for employers while increasing access to high-quality medical coverage. As the President of the Business Roundtable said, “the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program reduces costs and allows many of our member companies to continue providing this critical coverage” to retirees, and their families.
Congressional Republicans calling for repeal would deny America's businesses this critical help. They want to deny early retirees the peace of mind they deserve and the ability to access quality health care. Once again, they are standing up for special interests opposed to reform and standing in the way of progress for Main Street. And we must not let those playing politics drown out the needs of America's businesses and our middle class.
Health and Human Services Secretary Sebelius and Department of Commerce Secretary Gary Locke will host a web chat on the program tomorrow at 11:30 AM EDT–to tune or ask questions ahead of the chat visit www.healthreform.gov»