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.
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
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