FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For Information Contact:
A.J. (Jim) Norby
National Retiree Group Cites Urgent Need
For Health Benefits Protection Legislation
‘Health Care Benefits Are Not Welfare Benefits’
(WASHINGTON, Aug. 31, 2005) – The deterioration of employer-provided health plans, combined with soaring health care costs, have created an ominous cloud over today’s retirement landscape, according to Jim Norby, president of the National Retiree Legislative Network (NRLN).
“Health care benefits are not welfare benefits. Retirees earned their health care benefits as deferred compensation through decades of loyal service to their employers, who are now walking away from their commitments. Two senior fellows at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government recently described the current situation as a ‘national crisis in the making,’” Norby said.
Unlike retiree pension benefits that are considered “earned” or vested under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), companies are not legally required to set aside funds to match retiree health care obligations. Companies can also change their medical benefits for retirees at any time, leaving retirees at the mercy of their former employers, Norby noted.
“Retirees deserve the same security and protection for their health care benefits that are available under ERISA for their pensions. Such protection is contained in H.R. 1322, the Emergency Retiree Health Benefits Protection Act of 2005, which the NRLN assisted in writing,” Norby said.
“Another option being discussed would be for Congress to establish minimum health care funding and vesting requirements, similar to those governing pension plans under ERISA. Such an approach, accompanied by tax incentives to help companies with the transition to the new requirements, would place retiree health care benefits on an equal footing with pension plans and head off the pending crisis that threatens millions of workers,” Norby added.
Based in Washington, D.C., NRLN is dedicated to securing federal legislation that will guarantee the fair and equitable treatment of retirees in private and public sector health and pension programs. NRLN represents a non-partisan, grassroots coalition of retiree associations with a combined membership of nearly 2 million men and women who are seeking to protect their pension and health care benefits. For more information, visit the NRLN Web site at www.nrln.org.