Oklahoma businesses join federal early retiree reinsurance program

CapitolBeatOK Staff Report

Published: 08-Sep-2010

A government website  is highlighting the decision of several large Oklahoma employers to enter the Early Retiree Reinsurance program, part of the controversial Affordable Care Act passed earlier this year in Congress.

According to Healthcare.gov, “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. [1. Kaiser / HRET. Employer Health Benefits: 2009 Survey]”

The website summary, posted this week, contends, “Health insurance premiums for older Americans are over four times more expensive than they are for young adults, [2. Center for Policy and Research. Individual Health Insurance 2009
] and the deductible these enrollees pay is, on average, almost four times that for a typical employer-sponsored insurance plan. [3. Kaiser Family Foundation. 2010. Survey of People Who Purchase Their Own Insurance.]”

The posting continues, “The Affordable Care Act creates a new program called the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program to help address this challenge that employers and older employees are facing. 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, 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. Applicants who are approved into the program receive reinsurance for the claims of high-cost retirees and their families (80 percent of the costs from $15,000 to $90,000). The program ends on January 1, 2014 when State health insurance Exchanges are up and running.”

With “more applications” being approved each day, the site reports that the federal department of Health and Human Services has approved these “sponsors” from Oklahoma:

•                Advantage Health Plans Trust

•                ConocoPhillips Company

•                Indian Electric Cooperative, Inc.

•                OGE Energy Corp

•                ONEOK, Inc.

•                Pipeline Industry Benefit Fund

•                The Oklahoma Publishing Company

•                The Williams Companies, Inc.