Thursday, December 27, 2007

Screw the Old People

This is how our government takes care of its own people:

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said Wednesday that employers could reduce or eliminate health benefits for retirees when they turn 65 and become eligible for Medicare.

The policy, set forth in a new regulation, allows employers to establish two classes of retirees, with more comprehensive benefits for those under 65 and more limited benefits — or none at all — for those older.

More than 10 million retirees rely on employer-sponsored health plans as a primary source of coverage or as a supplement to Medicare, and Naomi C. Earp, the commission’s chairwoman, said, “This rule will help employers continue to voluntarily provide and maintain these critically important health benefits.”

Maha notes the Orwellian spin:
Let us pause and reflect upon Ms. Naomi C. Earp’s words. In fact, I was so taken with what Ms. Naomi C. Earp said that I went to the EEOC web site for more. ...

There Barbara found the following press release:
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced the publication of a final rule allowing employers that provide retiree health benefits to continue the longstanding practice of coordinating those benefits with Medicare (or comparable state health benefits) without violating the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The regulation, which safeguards retiree health benefits, was published in today’s Federal Register and is available on the EEOC’s web site at

“Implementation of this rule is welcome news for America’s retirees, whether young or old,” said Commission Chair Naomi C. Earp. “By this action, the EEOC seeks to preserve and protect employer-provided retiree health benefits which are increasingly less available and less generous. Millions of retirees rely on their former employer to provide health benefits, and this rule will help employers continue to voluntarily provide and maintain these critically important benefits in accordance with the law.”

The EEOC proposed the rule in response to a controversial decision in 2000 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Erie County Retirees Association v. County of Erie. The court held that the ADEA requires that the health insurance benefits received by Medicare-eligible retirees be the same, or cost the employer the same, as the health insurance benefits received by younger retirees. After the Erie County decision, labor unions and employers alike informed the EEOC that complying with the decision would force companies to reduce or eliminate the retiree health benefits they currently provided – leaving millions of retirees aged 55 and over with less health insurance, or no health insurance at all.

And thus continues the Bush administration's grand tradition of using language to pervert meaning:
Because health care costs are ballooning, the burden of providing health insurance for retirees is too much for many businesses to bear — no doubt this is true — so the EEOC says it’s OK for the companies to cut the retirees loose and let them fall back on Medicare. But because Bushies are Bushies, they can’t just come out and say it that way. Instead, they crank out some Orwellian doublespeak pretending this is all for the retirees’ own good.

John Cole sees this as "... another piece of evidence [...] that we will be moving to single-payer in the next deade or so, simply because big business wants this (and would argue they need it) in order to survive. ... At this point, it almost has a feel of inevitability about it." I think John is being way too optimistic about this country's capacity for common sense.

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