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Program Aims To Provide Affordable Health Insurance To Early Retirees

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Health Insurance To Early Retirees

The HR Policy Association,which represents 250 of the largest employers in the U.S., on Saturdayannounced the Retiree Health Access program, which is intended toprovide affordable health coverage for former employees age 55 to 64,the New York Times reports. According to the Times,"layoffs, employee buyouts and sending jobs offshore" have contributedto a pool of approximately 800,000 early retirees who no longer areeligible for employer-sponsored health insurance, too young to applyfor Medicare and unable to afford private insurance.

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Under theRetiree Health Access program, no retiree could be turned down forcoverage, regardless of prior medical conditions. Specifics of theplans will vary by employer, but a typical plan will have an annualdeductible between $500 and $1,100 and a monthly premium between $400and $1,200, depending on how much an employer chooses to contribute.

The policies will be administered by Aetna,which has agreed to participate because the employee pool created willbe large enough to spread the risks and costs of insuring a demographicthat is susceptible to major medical problems, the Timesreports. Aetna will use "medical management" programs to advise andtrack the treatment of people with chronic conditions such as diabetesand heart failure, Aetna Executive Vice President Mark Bertolini said.The program will in "many cases cost relatively little for employers,"according to the Times.

During the program'sfirst year in 2008, no more than 20 HR Policy members are expected toparticipate, but other companies are expected to join in 2009, HRPolicy President Jeffery McGuiness said. The group acknowledges thatthe program "can probably not help more than a small fraction of the800,000 pre-Medicare retirees currently without insurance," the Timesreports. However, Aetna CEO Ronald Williams said HR Policy hopes theprogram will "shape and influence" national discussions about healthcare reform (Freudenheim, New York Times, 6/23).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, afree service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.