Score another one for retirees. It looks like the EEOC has
been stopped by the Courts - at least for now...we'll need to stay vigilant.
The New York Times
February 5, 2005
WASHINGTON, Dec. 4 (Reuters) - A large advocacy group for American retirees said on Friday that it had won a court order barring the government from allowing companies to drop older retirees from health care coverage while retaining coverage for younger retirees.
The court ruling, issued Friday, temporarily blocks the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission from issuing a new rule that would allow companies, battling rising health care costs, to drop health insurance coverage when their retirees turn 65 and become eligible for Medicare coverage.
"We took this action to protect our members and all retirees from losing their rights under the age discrimination laws," said David Certner, the director of federal affairs for AARP, the group that sought the court order.
"This would have put millions of retirees at great risk for losing their retiree health coverage."
The ruling was issued by a federal judge in Philadelphia.
Business groups took a blow with the ruling. They warned that not being able to drop coverage when retirees became eligible for Medicare would ultimately create a disincentive for employers to provide health benefits for any retirees, such as those younger than 65.
"Certainly, employers are faced with a very difficult challenge to maintain health plans for their current workforce, never mind their retired workforce," said Michael Eastman, director of labor law policy at the U.S.
Chamber of Commerce.
The court ruling prohibits the E.E.O.C. from publishing for 60 days a rule that would effectively allow companies to drop coverage for older retirees without violating federal age discrimination laws.
A hearing has been set for March 31 to hear arguments on permanently banning the rule.
The rule was precipitated by a federal appeals court ruling in 2000 that stated that Erie County, Pa., could not discriminate against retirees who were 65 or older by not offering them health care coverage if the county insured its younger retirees.
Since then, many employers have not offered retirees medical coverage because of the uncertainty stemming from that 2000 appeals court decision, Mr. Eastman said.
In a statement Friday evening, the E.E.O.C. warned that any delay in enacting its rule would "endanger vital protections" for retirees.