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NRLN Action Alert and Sample Letter on GM Retirees’ Healthcare Cuts

 

From Bill Kadereit, NRLN President

 

Subject: GM Retirees Latest Victims Of EEOC Rule

 

You have probably read or heard the news reports that on July 15th, General Motors announced a number of cost cutting measures that included the elimination of its health care plan for retirees age 65 and older who are eligible for Medicare.  On January 1, 2009, GM will cancel medical, dental, vision, hearing aid, prescription drug, extended care coverage and a $76 per month Medicare B premium payment, for tens of thousands of retirees age 65 and older, surviving spouses and dependents.

 

In lieu of the healthcare benefits, GM will provide a monthly pre-tax pension increase of $300.  This amount will only be a drop in the bucket for what it will cost retirees living on fixed incomes to purchase replacement insurance for the coverage lost.

 

GM’s announcement is the latest horrific example of the harm that a rule published by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is causing. The EEOC Rule allows employers to reduce or eliminate health care benefits to retirees when they become Medicare-eligible at age 65. The EEOC’s purported reasoning for creating the Rule was that by allowing employers to discriminate and treat older retirees less favorably, employers might have an incentive to continue to offer healthcare benefits for younger retirees and active employees. However, nowhere in the EEOC Rule or elsewhere is it written that those under age 65 have any assurances their benefits will not be reduced. The law does not protect them.

 

The thousands of GM salaried retirees who will lose their health care benefits are one of the largest retiree groups to be targeted. With the attention that GM’s announcement has received in the press, many other employers are most likely examining GM’s decision and giving consideration to taking similar action. Therefore, it is in the interest of all retirees and future retirees to write to their U.S. Senators and Representatives to request that legislation be passed to overturn the EEOC Rule and provide safeguards for retirement health care benefits.

 

We have called for this in letters faxed last week to the Democrat and Republican leaders of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives and the Chairs and Ranking Members of the Congressional committees that deal with retirement legislative issues. (Read my letter in the NRLN Website Latest News at www.nrln.org.) In these letters, we proposed the passage of the “Health Care Protection Act of 2008.”  Under the act, should an employer reduce or eliminate health care benefits, retirees would receive a Maintenance of Cost Payment (MCP) equivalent to the cost of their defined health care benefits as of the date of retirement. With the MCP, corporations would know their costs for retiree health care would not grow. Retirees would be more secure in knowing they could replace benefits with the MCP fixed-payment dollars.

 

I am asking you as an NRLN Grassroots Advocate to use the NRLN’s sample letter to write to your U.S. Senators and Representative. Please go to http://capwiz.com/abtr/home/ and look for the Action Alert headline: GM RETIREES LATEST VICTIMS OF EEOC RULE. Click on “Take Action.” On the next screen, type in your zip code to identify the Senators and Representative to receive your letter. I encourage you to add your own personal comments to the sample letter. If you have a problem accessing the Action Alert with the above link, go to www.nrln.org and click on the “Take Action Now” headline at the top of the NRLN Website’s Home Page.

 

Send your letter today.  It would also help to call the Washington, D.C. or state office of your Senators and Representative. Phone numbers for the offices can be found through the NRLN’s Capwiz website at http://capwiz.com/abtr/dbq/officials//.

 

The more constituents who write and call their Senators and Representatives, the better chance we have gaining their attention on retirement issues. Please share this email with your family and friends and encourage them to write and call their members of Congress. Also, encourage them to sign up in the Grassroots Network at http://capwiz.com/abtr/mlm/signup/ and become an NRLN Individual Member by making a personal annual contribution. Details are available at www.nrln.org.