Thursday, January 17, 2008

Early retirees struggle with health insurance; At 65 many employers limit coverage to Part D once Medicare eligibility starts

“Reactions to changes on changes to retiree health benefits rule” in USA Today Jan 11, by Stephanie Armour, story here, is an article that discusses the recent EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which often does what it wants) rules changes that allow employers to provide fewer health benefits to those over 65, once these employees become eligible for Medicare. Now this practice will not be viewed as illegal benefits discrimination based on age. Conservatives argue that this change allows employers to provide better bridge benefits to those under 65.

Many retiree health plans convert over to a “Prescription Drugs” only once the employee reaches 65, sometimes at prices higher than what the employee could find in the market. Prescription drugs are a big complicated topic with Medicare Part D, the topological “doughnut hole,” etc. Some retirees will not find keeping this coverage economical. A common blood pressure medication, Atenolol, typically costs relatively little (generic) out of pocket and would not be worth a premium. Competition among drug companies for medications for widely treated conditions can lower costs.

Sandra Block has a big story today in USA Today, Jan. 16, “Early retirees try to fill the cap in health coverage,” link here.

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