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Health care reform: Early retiree health insurance benefits

Many people dream of the day they retire and embark on a new adventure. But many workers must put off those dreams because they’ll lose health insurance if they leave their jobs, and their age or medical conditions put health insurance out of reach. For some hopeful retirees who are too young to qualify for Medicare, access to health insurance is the only thing that keeps them at work.

But on June 1, 2010, a provision of health care reform was enacted to help people get the coverage they need when they leave the workforce.

The Early Retiree Reinsurance Program

The Early Retiree Reinsurance Program offers employers reimbursement for health insurance claims paid for retirees between the ages of 55 and 65, plus their spouses and dependents. This allows retirees to stay on their company’s current plan.

The program is voluntary for employers, who must first submit an application and be approved for the program.

Reimbursements will be available for 80 percent of medical claim costs for benefits between $15,000 and $90,000. Participants will be able to submit claims dating back to June 1, 2010. Medical, surgical, hospital services, prescription drugs and mental health services are eligible for reimbursement, but only for expenses incurred after June 1, 2010.

To find out if you're eligible, talk to your employer about whether it has applied for the program. If your employer hasn't applied but wants to, encourage them to do it quickly. The Early Retiree Reinsurance Program ends when the $5 billion in funding runs out or on Jan.1, 2014, or, whichever comes first. It was designed to be a bridge until health insurance exchanges are operating in 2014, which promise access to affordable health insurance for individuals.

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