Retiree Leader Condemns EEOC’s Regulation As Damaging To Medicare-Eligible Retirees

Agency Created To Prevent Discrimination Publishes Policy Allowing Employers To Discriminate Against Retirees Age 65 And Older

WASHINGTON - (Jan. 2, 2008) The leader of the National Retiree Legislative Network (NRLN) today condemned the publishing of a new regulation by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that allows employers to reduce or eliminate healthcare benefits for retirees when they turn 65 and become eligible for Medicare.

“More than 10 million American retirees who rely on employer-sponsored healthcare and prescription drug plans stand to be hurt by the EEOC’s rule,” said Bill Kadereit, NRLN President. “How can the agency that was created to prevent discrimination issue a policy that discriminates on the basis of age?

” Kadereit said he believes that the EEOC is overstepping its authority and is attempting to legislate rather than protecting older retirees as required by the 1967 Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).

“EEOC, as part of the Executive branch, just took away the legislative authority of Congress,” Kadereit said. “This is wrong and a slap in the face to all retirees age 65 and older.”Kadereit noted that the preamble of the EEOC’s new regulation states, “The final rule is not intended to encourage employers to eliminate any retiree health benefits they may currently provide.”

“The NRLN has already seen evidence of the EEOC policy’s negative impact on older retirees,” Kadereit said. “For example, this year, Alcatel-Lucent will hit Medicare-eligible management retirees age 65 and older with higher charges for company prescription drug coverage than younger retirees.

“Further, the Medicare Act of 2003, as written, would allow this company to keep it’s $80 million subsidy since it did not gouge people beyond the bare minimum required to match the Medicare Part D plan,” he said. “The more than 10 million retirees in this country who stayed with their employers for 30 years instead of moving to competitor firms are being sacrificed on the altar by the Courts and now by the Executive Branch of the U.S. government,” Kadereit said. “Who passes the laws in our country today? What does it take for Congress and the EEOC to get the message? They are taking away benefits earned by this group of more than 10 million citizens. They built our economic base. Why steal from them?”
Kadereit said the NRLN supports AARP’s appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court of lower courts’ decisions upholding the EEOC position. He said if the Supreme Court does not hear AARP’s appeal or rules against that appeal, the NRLN would support legislation repealing the EEOC’s rule. “If Congress won’t repeal the EEOC’s rule, then when Senators and Representatives retire and turn age 65 they should lose their healthcare insurance,” Kadereit said.

“Employers who support the Commission’s rule argue that companies would cancel healthcare plans for all retirees,” Kadereit said. “This is self-serving nonsense since companies can and are canceling plans and shifting costs to retirees without this discriminatory ruling. The EEOC is being used as a pawn of employers to the detriment of older Americans. Congress must protect those who earned benefits.”

About the NRLN

Based in Washington, D.C., the NRLN is dedicated to securing federal legislation that will guarantee the fair and equitable treatment of retirees in the private and public sector. The NRLN represents a non-partisan, grassroots coalition of retiree associations with a combined membership of some two million men and women who are seeking to protect their pension and healthcare benefits. For more information, visit the NRLN Website at www.nrln.org.

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