Three Columbia organizations approved for federal Early Retiree Reinsurance Program

Thursday, September 2, 2010 | 4:56 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA - Columbia Public Schools, the city of Columbia and MFA Oil Co. are three of almost 2,000 organizations nationwide that can take advantage of a new federal health care provision covering early retirees.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services this week rolled out its list of employers who can receive reimbursement for providing health insurance to retired workers who have not yet reached the age of 65 when Medicare kicks in.

The Early Retiree Reinsurance Program is retroactive to June 1 and can cover health claims for these workers. It is funded by a $5 billion appropriation and is part of the Affordable Care Act passed earlier this year.

 “It’s a first-come, first-serve $5 billion program,” said Linda Quinley, chief financial officer of the Columbia Public Schools. 

The program, which will run until 2014, covers claims of retired workers over the age of 55, their spouses and dependents. The program will reimburse employers for up to 80 percent of the claim costs between $15,000 and $90,000.

Of the almost 2,000 employers accepted for the program, 49 are in Missouri and three are in Columbia.  The city of Columbia is one of those three, though few of its retired workers will be affected.

Margrace Buckler, directorof human resources for Columbia, said she knows of only one claim that would qualify at this time. 

“Under our health care plan, we cover our pre-65 retirees until they are covered by Medicare,” Buckler said.  “This is incentive to keep doing that rather than throw them out into the market.  I think that’s the purpose.” 

Columbia Public Schools submitted an application for the program during the first few days it was available, Quinley said. 

"I think there are about 80 people who would be eligible for the program," she said. 

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