Nearly 2,000 accepted into program that gives health care coverage to early retirees

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently announced the first round of applicants accepted into the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program.

Nearly 2,000 employers, representing large and small businesses, state and local governments, educational institutions, non-profits and unions have been accepted into the program and will begin to receive reimbursements for employee claims this fall.

Purpose

Created by the Affordable Care Act as a bridge to the new health insurance exchanges in 2014, the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program provides $5 billion in financial assistance to employers and unions to help them maintain coverage for early retirees age 55 and older who are not yet eligible for Medicare.

Businesses and other employers and unions that are accepted into the program will receive reimbursement for medical claims for early retirees and their spouses, surviving spouses and dependents. Savings can be used to reduce employer health care costs, provide premium relief to workers and families, or both.

The program ends January 1, 2014 when state health insurance exchanges are up and running.

Factors

Rising health care costs have made it difficult for employers to provide quality, affordable health insurance for workers and retirees while also remaining competitive in the global marketplace. The percentage of large firms providing workers with retiree health coverage has dropped from 66 percent in 1988 to 29 percent in 2009.

Health insurance premiums for older Americans are over four times more expensive than they are for young adults and the deductible these enrollees pay is, on average, almost four times that for a typical employer-sponsored insurance plan.

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight has approved nearly 2,000 plans representing a broad range of employers from all 50 states and the District of Columbia into the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program in this first round of approvals with more applications being reviewed every day.

Process

Starting in September, approved applicants can begin submitting claims dating back to June 1, 2010 and, starting in October, approved applicants will begin to receive reinsurance payments on those claims. This policy allows more health benefit claims to qualify for reinsurance payments for plans this year.

The approved applications represent nearly every sector of the economy: 32 percent of applications came from businesses, 26 percent from state and local governments, 22 percent from union sponsors, 14 percent from schools and other educational institutions and 5 percent from non profits.

For a list of approved applications by state, visit www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/early_retiree_reinsurance_prog ram.html.

New tools. In addition to announcing these approved applications, HHS announced two new information tools for employers and unions interested in the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program — a new website at www.ERRP.gov and a new hotline at 877-574-3777. Employers and unions can find the application form and application instructions online, as well as other relevant guidance and regulations from HHS.

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