A REVIEW OF THE NRLN’S POSITION ON ISSUES AND LEGISLATION AFFECTING RETIREES 

The fundamental mission of the NRLN is to promote and support retiree-friendly legislation, vigorously fight retiree-hostile legislation and to create new legislation when a need is identified. We, currently, list the following legislation and issues, along with a brief explanation of that issue or bill and our present position - for or against.  (click on underlined highlighted words for more details)

-         The Emergency Retiree Health Benefits Protection Act (HR1322).  This legislation will protect retirees from the reduction or cancellation of health benefits once they have retired.  Further, it provides recovery for retirees already affected.  It calls for the protection of health benefits of the employee who is actively working in much the same manner as the ERISA law requires funding for pensions benefits.  Fundamentally, HR1322 would require the promising company to deliver on its promise when the employee retires.  The NRLN vigorously supports this legislation.

-         The Portman-Cardin Bill (HR1776).  This Bill proposes the adoption of a funding relief discount rule being asked for by a number of corporations. This would lead to the false appearance of corporate profitability as a result of the reduction of funding obligations.  These are the same companies that complain about their pension contributions being too high that did not contribute a dime to the funding of their pension plans for a long period of time – some as many as 15 years!  Supposedly, their pension trust funds were enjoying substantial surpluses just a short time ago.  The NRLN has written a letter to the Secretary of the Department of Labor asking that these companies be audited in the accounting of their pension funds.  The NRLN has cautioned the Labor Secretary that the new funding rate proposed by the Bill would artificially wipe out billions of dollars in projected pension liabilities thus transferring the risk from the companies to the retirees, who can ill afford such risk.  The NRLN vigorously opposes this legislation. (Mike Gordon testifies before committee)

-         Proposed IRS regulations pertaining to “cash balance” pension plans.  This proposed regulation by the Treasury Department would enable thousands of companies to convert their traditional defined benefit plans to a so called “cash balance” plan which would result in a pension pay cut for millions of older workers.  It has been estimated that the annual pension benefit of older employees can drop by as much as 50% by this conversion.  The NRLN strongly opposes this proposed regulation.

-         Suggested Amendment to Medicare Prescription Drug Bill.  This proposed legislation drafted by the NRLN and Congressman John Tierney (D-MA) protects the retiree from losing the protection he now has from his former employer on prescription drugs.  It gives an option to the retiree to continue under his company provided plan or to be covered by the Medicare Prescription Drug Bill described below.  The NRLN endorses this proposal.

-         The Grassley-Baucus Medicare Prescription Drug Amendment (HR1) and (S1).  This is a proposed amendment to the Medicare program that adds a prescription drug benefit to the current Medicare system. While offering some relief to a narrow segment of the retiree population, it establishes huge gaps in reimbursable prescription drug coverage, while at the same time, doing nothing to prevent companies from erasing their existing retiree prescription drug insurance programs.  According to Congressional Budget Office estimates, some 37% of retirees or 4.4 million people will lose drug coverage under this Bill.  Senator Dayton (D-MN) has recently sent a letter to the President outlining his opposition to the Bill as proposed.  Among other comments, he said, “The Bill cannot give seniors false choices that coerce them into leaving conventional Medicare to enroll in HMO’s and private plans.  It is wrong to provide greater resources to enrich private plans while starving Medicare in the bargain.”  Further, he wrote, “We agree with recent statements by both Republicans and Democrats that the final Bill must prevent the employer from dropping coverage from Retirees.”  The NRLN could not agree more.  We vigorously oppose this legislation.

The foregoing represents the considered opinion of the Board of Directors of the National Retiree Legislative Network, Inc.  Further details as to the legislation or issue and rationale for the position taken by the NRLN can be found on this website under Press Releases.

 AJN

9-09-03