Retirees Alarmed at Threat of Cuts in Drug Benefits
New York Times (09/16/03) p.A1; Pear, Robert

Retirees are voicing their opposition to provisions of Medicare legislation currently under review that, they say, would threaten their current drug benefits. They argue that the Medicare drug benefit offered by Congress may provide a disincentive for employers to continue offering their retirees health benefits. Figures show that about 12 million of the 40 million people who currently receive Medicare benefits also receive retiree health benefits, and the Congressional Budget Office estimates that 33 percent of those 12 million will likely lose their employer-provided benefits if Medicare legislation is passed in Congress. While some employee advocates argue that the Medicare legislation will clearly take away employers' need to provide their retirees with health benefits, others say that employers will merely seek to reduce benefits in order to supplement Medicare benefits, if the legislation is passed. The Medicare bill currently being considered in the Senate includes a provision which many employee advocates say violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act by allowing employers to provide retirees over age 65 with inferior health benefits compared with those provided to younger retirees. In response to employees' voiced fears, employers have argued that they support Congress' Medicare legislation on the grounds that Medicare should be made available to all retirees, regardless of the health benefits they already receive.

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