Earlier this summer, HHS announced that businesses could begin submitting applications to the newly-created Early Retiree Reinsurance Program in order to receive federal funding to help pay for retirees’ health insurance until they become eligible for Medicare. To date, 2000 businesses have been approved for the program, and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says that this is just the beginning. Businesses have shown great interest in the reinsurance program, and Sebelius notes that they have received applications from “… more than 50 percent of Fortune 500 companies, all major unions, and government entities in all 50 States…”
Applying to the program is an obvious step for a business that would like to continue to provide health insurance for early retirees. But the question remains as to whether the $5 billion designated for the ERRP will hold out until 2014 when all of the provisions of the PPACA become effective. But between now and then, having the option to remain on a previous employer’s group health insurance plan does take a lot of pressure off of early retirees, especially those with health problems who may have difficulty securing individual coverage.
Whether the money will last or not remains to be seen. But for now it looks like a good option for employers who are looking for a helping hand in providing health insurance for their early retirees. For people in Colorado who retire before age 65 and don’t have employer-provided early retiree health insurance benefits, there are lots of options available in the individual market, although those do require that the applicant be reasonably healthy in order to qualify. For those who don’t qualify medically, there are two guaranteed issue programs available in Colorado now: Cover Colorado and GettingUsCovered. They aren’t cheap, but they are guaranteed issue for people with medical conditions that preclude medically underwritten individual policies.