Early Retiree Program to Employers: Bye

Officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) were right back in April when they predicted they would probably use up Early Retiree Reinsurance Program (ERRP) funding early.

CMS stopped taking ERRP applications in May because of concerns about lack of availability of funds, and now officials say in a new notice that ERRP probably will stop helping with claims incurred by the employers already using the program at the end of the year.

The drafters of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act  of 2010 (PPACA) created ERRP and provided $5 billion in ERRP funding in an effort to help the dwindling number of employers that still provide health coverage for retirees ages 50 to 64.

ERRP, which began taking applications in June 2010, has been reimbursing participating employers for 80% of the amount of claims costing between $15,000 and $90,000 for early retirees and early retirees’ spouses, surviving spouses and dependents.

The ERRP creators supporters were hoping ERRP would help keep coverage in place for early retirees until 2014. Early retirees cannot get Medicare coverage unless they qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, and, in states that allow medical underwriting, early retirees with health problems may have trouble qualifying for conventional commercial health coverage.

If PPACA provisions take effect as written and work as backers hope, carriers will still be able to charge older consumers more than they charge younger consumers in 2014, but they will not be able to use an individual’s health status when deciding whether to issue coverage or when setting rates.

Unless Congress provides additional funding, ERRP likely will end 2 years earlier than hoped, because the program already has spent $4.5 billion of its funding, CMS officials say.

Plan sponsors must not mix claims incurred after Dec. 31, 2011, with 2011 claims in ERRP reimbursement requests, officials say.

If circumstances change, and more funding surfaces, CMS may announce that it can help with some 2012 claims, officials say.

“If a claim is incurred on or before December 31, 2011, but paid after December 31, 2011, the sponsor may submit the claim, but not until it has been paid,” officials say.

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