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Kerry Provision to Protect Retiree Health Coverage Starts Helping Massachusetts Seniors

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today announced its plans to implement Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.)'s program to make retiree health insurance coverage more stable and affordable.

HHS today announced the first round of applicants accepted into the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program, which will protect health coverage for early retirees. This new program originated as a provision authored by Senator Kerry as part of the health reform legislation signed into law earlier this year. Nearly 2,000 employers, including 77 in Massachusetts, have been accepted into the program and will begin to receive reimbursements for employee claims this fall.

"For workers who did back-breaking work all their lives, this is a huge tangible difference. Forget about the political consequences, this is why health reform was so damn important. This is especially for Massachusetts because our state boasts so many early retirees and this will reduce health care costs, substantially lower premiums, and prevent the continued erosion of employer-sponsored retiree coverage across the country. I'm glad that Senator Stabenow and I fought and won the fight to include this effort in health care reform for retirees aged 55 to 64 years old."

The Early Retiree Reinsurance Program officially began in June of this year. It allows employers to receive reinsurance reimbursements for their retirees with catastrophic medical expenses. Employers who participate in the program can receive a reinsurance reimbursement of up to 80 percent of catastrophic medical claims between $15,000 and $90,000 for their early retiree enrollees. The reimbursement is used to reduce the employer's health care costs and to lower premiums to retirees and their families. A study from Hewitt Associates estimates that the program will reduce the cost of retiree coverage from 25 to 35 percent -- anywhere from $2,000 to $3,000 per retiree, per year.

In Massachusetts, about 79,000 retirees rely on health coverage through their former employers before they become eligible for Medicare. The Early Retiree Reinsurance Program will encourage employers to continue offering health coverage to their employees by providing immediate financial relief to cover those with costly medical expenses. The program ends on January 1, 2014. This is when important insurance reforms to prevent older Americans from being charged exorbitant premiums go into effect nationwide and when early retirees will have access to additional coverage options in the health insurance exchanges.

The Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight has approved nearly 2,000 plans in this first round of approvals, with more applications being reviewed every day.

The following is a list of the 77 organizations in Massachusetts that have been approved in the first round:

*Acushnet Company
*Berkshire Bank
*Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
*Blue Cross & Blue Shield of MA, Inc.
*Boston Scientific Corporation
*Boston Symphony Orchestra, Inc.
*Boston University
*Cabot Corporation
*Cell Signaling Technology Inc.
*City of Boston
*City of Brockton
*City of Cambridge, MA
*City of Chicopee
*City of Everett
*City of Gardner
*City of Gloucester
*City of Haverhill
*City of Leominster
*City of Lowell
*City of Malden
*City of New Bedford
*City of Northampton
*City of Peabody
*City of Revere
*City of Somerville
*City of Westfield
*City of Worcester
*Count of Norfolk
*Friendly Ice Cream Corporation
*Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School
*Hampshire Council of Governments
*IUOE Local 4 Health & Welfare Fund
*Liberty Mutual Group Inc
*Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Company, LLC
*Massachusetts Bay Health Care Trust Fund
*Massachusetts Bricklayers and Masons Health & Welfare Fund
*Massachusetts Institute of Technology
*Mayflower Municipal Health Group
*Merrimack Mutual Fire Insurance Company
*Minuteman Nashoba Health Group
*New England Biolabs, Inc.
*New England Life Insurance Company
*Northeastern University
*Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc.
*Philips Electronics North America Corporation
*President and Fellows of Harvard College
*Putnam Investments, LLC
*Raytheon Company
*Reed Elsevier Inc
*Scantic Valley Regional Health Trust
*Sheet Metal Workers Local #63 Health and Welfare Fund
*Sheet Metal Workers Local 17 Insurance Fund
*Southeastern Massachusetts Health Group
*Staples, Inc.
*State Street Corporation
*Sun Life Financial (U.S.) Services Company Inc.
*Teamsters Health Services & Insurance Plan Of Local 404
*Teamsters Local 170 Health & Welfare Fund
*Teamsters Union 25 Health Services & Insurance Plan
*The City of Newton
*The Hanover Insurance Company
*Town of Andover
*Town of Arlington
*Town of Auburn
*Town of Bellingham
*Town of Belmont
*Town of Canton
*Town of Fairhaven
*Town of Foxborough
*Town of Lincoln
*Town of Mattapoisett
*Town of Plymouth
*Town of Sharon
*Town of Tewksbury
*Town of Webster
*Town of Westborough
*Welch Foods Inc, A Cooperative

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