Soylent Green Is People

Bush Administration, Health Care

In another sign of how the country is going to hell in a handbasket, Robert Pear writes in today’s New York Times:

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.”

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. And lo, there’s a press release with the head:

EEOC MOVES TO PROTECT RETIREE HEALTH BENEFITS
Implementation of Final Rule Ensures Age Bias Law is No Barrier to Employer Insurance

And in the body of this press release I read:

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 www.eeoc.gov.

“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.

Ah, I see. The Bushies are protecting retired people from discrimination by allowing their former employers to cut off their health benefits. Robert Pear continues,

Premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance rose an average of 6.1 percent this year and have increased 78 percent since 2001, according to surveys by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Because of the rising cost of health care and the increased life expectancy of workers, the commission said, many employers refuse to provide retiree health benefits or even to negotiate on the issue.

In general, the commission observed, employers are not required by federal law to provide health benefits to either active or retired workers.

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.

And, of course, wingnuts want to eliminate Medicare also. As Rich Lowry so well explained, spending on big government programs like Medicare siphons off money that could be better put to use maintaining a big military to spread American hegemony around the planet and allow all people to enjoy our superior way of life. Until, of course, they are too old to be productively making money for Halliburton. I believe the plan at that point is to set the old folks adrift on ice floes, although given global warming I’m not sure how that’s going to work, either.

Robert Pear continues:

AARP and other advocates for older Americans attacked the rule. “This rule gives employers free rein to use age as a basis for reducing or eliminating health care benefits for retirees 65 and older,” said Christopher G. Mackaronis, a lawyer for AARP, which represents millions of people age 50 or above and which had sued in an effort to block issuance of the final regulation. “Ten million people could be affected — adversely affected — by the rule.”

The new policy creates an explicit exemption from age-discrimination laws for employers that scale back benefits of retirees 65 and over. Mr. Mackaronis asserted that the exemption was “in direct conflict” with the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.

Seems that way to me. Weirdly, the AFL-CIO supports the Bushies’ plan. I say they have some ‘splainin’ to do.

Just yesterday I stumbled on a group discussion on single payer health care. Righties wittily asked if the government would also provide them with free lunches and congratulated themselves on having the prescience to get jobs with health benefits. Spoken like people who have no experience whatsoever dealing with the health care system. And the wingnuts have no clue what the current “system” is doing to our economy. Ultimately a single payer system would be better for employers and entrepreneurship generally. Righties can’t see anything beyond their own limited experiences and needs, which is what makes them righties.

Speaking of the AARP and Medicare, I found this press release on the AARP site —

“The American people deserve better. It is a shame that our elected officials will go home for the holidays without helping low-income beneficiaries get the care they need by strengthening programs directly targeted at the most vulnerable older Americans.

“It also is discouraging to millions of older Americans that the administration was unwilling to consider any reductions in the billions of dollars in excess payments to Medicare Advantage plans—particularly to private fee-for-service plans, which do not have to coordinate care and have been the subject of widespread marketing abuses—in order to help improve Medicare.

Bushies don’t see old folks as citizens; they see them as an exploitable resource. But I guess as long as they’re an exploitable resource they won’t be marched off to the Soylent Green factory.

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19 Comments

18 Comments

  1. SteveIL  •  Dec 27, 2007 @9:57 am

    I don’t know why any of the moonbats are complaining about this. It just adds more people to the socialized medical care the leftists want anyway.

  2. khughes1963  •  Dec 27, 2007 @10:20 am

    Maha-I agree with your statement that “Bushies don’t see old folks as citizens, they see them as an exploitable resource.” I would also contend Bushies see their base and the officers and enlisted personnel i in the armed services as “an exploitable resource,” to be praised in the abstract and screwed in the specific.

  3. Swami  •  Dec 27, 2007 @1:23 pm

    SteveIL…Here’s a clue that might help your understanding.

    “Today I bake, tomorrow I brew,
    Today for one
    Tomorrow for two
    Little knows my royal dame
    Rumpelstiltskin is my name”

  4. joanr16  •  Dec 27, 2007 @1:25 pm

    Apparently Steve can’t read. Or think. Which makes him a prime candidate for the “down is up, cold is hot” inverted propaganda of this administration. Tell us again, sir, how eliminating private health benefits, while also working to eliminate public benefits, “protect[s] retiree health benefits”?

    Thank goodness for the AARP, at least. I suspect that trying to screw over older workers is going to bite some inverted thinkers in the… front.

  5. Bonnie  •  Dec 27, 2007 @1:37 pm

    As I have mentioned before, I am an American Indian. My tribe won a case in 1990 against the Federal Government, State of Washington, Pierce County, and the City of Tacoma for reservation land taken away from us illegally. We had evidence that the judge who ruled that it was okay for a particular company to be given our reservation land was part owner of the company–a definite conflict of interest. All laws made by the Republican majority Congress from 2000 to 2006 should be removed from the books because there were definitive conflicts of interests, quid pro quos, etc. All laws signed by Bush including EOs, signing statements, and the bogus garbage that have come from Cheney as VP should also be stricken from the books because they were not in the best interests of “We, the People.” Aren’t there some lawyers out there who could come up with a way for “We, the people” to sue these criminals and overturn everything done by them–including Supreme Court appointments? The American people used to be known for their ingenuity and passion to make this the best country. Are there enough of those people left to find an extraordinary way out of this mess–a way that will teach a lesson to those who may want to try it again in the future?

  6. erinyes  •  Dec 27, 2007 @5:00 pm

    Ha, we’re ALL enemy combatants now.
    I’m moving to Poland, taking SteveIL with me (he can tell Pollock jokes in the town square and wait for an ass whoopin’).

    In a totally unrelated breaking news item, Benazir Bhutto has been murdered in Pakistan ( who DIDN’T see that coming?). My spider sense is tingling to the max. This is BAAAAD.My heart is heavy.

  7. SteveIL  •  Dec 27, 2007 @5:09 pm

    Excuse me, but don’t people over 65 go on Medicare? I think they do. How do they rate a government-provided insurance plan and an employer-provided health plan from a place they don’t work for anymore? What kind of idiot would want that in place? At least those retirees under 65 aren’t being left out in the cold, since they don’t qualify for Medicare until they are 65.

  8. maha  •  Dec 27, 2007 @6:37 pm

    Excuse me, but don’t people over 65 go on Medicare?

    Yes, but like most righties you have the reading comprehension skills of pond scum and have missed the point.

    Go read John Cole — “Privatize the Profits, Socialize the Costs” — at Balloon Juice and pick up a couple of clues.

  9. PFT  •  Dec 27, 2007 @6:40 pm

    At some point in time people will wake up and realize they have been getting ripped off by their own government for the last 30 years so as to profit our elected officials corporate leaders, who then use their excessive profits to invest outside America.

    The agenda my friends is to lower Americans standard of living so the New World Order will be one in which the different regions of the world will have comparable living standards. Brzezinski said it in 1970 in his book, Americans will have to accept a lower standard of living and the loss of their currency. One World Government, coming soon.

    By the time people wake up, it will be too late, so go back to trying to change things with your vote, dems vs republicans, it’s all a joke to divide and rule. Keeps people from focusing on what is happening. The world looks on, some with joy (those to whom we are transferring our wealth to ), others with pity, as Americans submit to their fate wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross, and once their credit is extinguished, it’s all over.

  10. erinyes  •  Dec 27, 2007 @7:40 pm

    Here’s one for Bonnie.
    Call me Ishmael Lakota…………

  11. erinyes  •  Dec 27, 2007 @7:43 pm

    So much for the dramatics, here’s the link….
    http://eeng.net/CS/blogs/smileycoyote/archive/2007/12/24/1042.aspx

  12. Steve from Canuckistan  •  Dec 27, 2007 @10:59 pm

    The “Orwellian doublespeak” metaphor is so apt. Other examples include “the health forest initiatives”, “no child left behind”, “you’re either fer us or you’re against us” , and the ever popular “the same folks that are bombing innocent people in Iraq were the ones who attacked us in America on September the 11th.”

  13. Don Shuper  •  Dec 28, 2007 @12:25 am

    Hello – “Im from the government- here to help you ” – riiight

    1) Congress legalizes the cash balance pension plan game- which essentially removes “early “- prior to 65 – retirement subsidies and with few exceptions, those who could have retired at 60 with 100 percent benefits now must work till 65 to get 100 percent of (less) benefits. True the kinder do better under the Cash balance scene. But the overall effect is like moving the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow- while spilling out half the contents.

    2) Now that the workforce must work loner- the government decides they must not only give the companies better tax breaks- but also figure out how to keep them in good health so that the older ones can work at full bore until they retire – or preferably drop dead soon after they become eligible. After all, SS was designed just that way- making the age to draw benefits near the age expected by the mortality tables to eliminate about half of the population. When the tables showed the expected age before the final shift got closer to 85- the financial basis went to hell.

    Healthy corpses give a greater organic return in the Solyent green machine. Thats why the refer to personnel orgs as HUMAN resources – The new mantra – ‘ good till the last drop (dead) “

  14. Monkeyfister  •  Dec 28, 2007 @2:04 am

    Barbara–

    Do please check your blog’s email for a message from me (Monkeyfister). Therein you will find some very glad tidings, and some instructions for bring joy to someone else in this Holiday Season.

    Also see here: http://monkeyfister.blogspot.com/2007/12/2007-golden-monkeyfist-awards.html

    And then check your blog’s email.

    Happy New Year!

    –Monkeyfister
    http://monkeyfister.blogspot.com/

  15. erinyes  •  Dec 28, 2007 @7:04 am

    “once the credit is extinguished it’s all over”
    Oh my friend, there lies the secret, that which separates the Abrahamic religions and is worth killing each other over.
    Think as you repeat these words:
    Mastercard
    Visa
    usury
    Slavery
    Priceless
    It will never be over. It is the new religion.

  16. Bruce Webb  •  Dec 28, 2007 @10:38 am

    “Weirdly, the AFL-CIO supports the Bushies’ plan. I say they have some ’splainin’ to do”

    Don’t want to seem a contrarian, particularly on my first visit (Congratulations on the Monkeyfister award) but there may be an explanation of the AFL-CIO position here. It may seem counterintuitive but this move might actually get us closer to Single Payer.

    Currently the economics of private insurance is based on exclusion. Insurance companies make money by insuring healthy people and excluding sickly people from coverage to start with and then by denying treatment even for those who are covered. Well the antidote to the first problem is to maximize automatic coverage, you get more people into pools where they have to be covered. And this is the case for most employer provided insurance plans, the insurance can’t screen out new hires. (Of course they can jack the cost of the plan up later, but that is a point to be discussed at another time.)

    So the more people that fall into the category of ‘have to be covered’ the less profitable it will be for insurance companies to spend money screening people out. (Which by the way is central to the ‘mandate’ vs ‘no-mandate’ kerfluffle between the Clinton/Edwards approach vs the Obama approach to health care. Until we get insurance companies totally out of the picture (which is my preferred end game) they are not going to accept a system where people can opt out of insurance until they get sick and then automatically get a right to be covered.)

    Currently neither public or private employers have any obligation to provide health coverage to retirees and most don’t. Certainly the State of Washington doesn’t. Which sets up a perverse incentive. I had a coworker in a midlevel government job that had in the past been a very successful in commercial real estate. He was making okay money at our job but really didn’t need it, he kept working because he knew no matter how successful your portfolio it will not survive an encounter with a major medical condition if you have to pay out of pocket. On the other hand his wife was free to take early retirement from her well-paid government job simply because her medical was covered under Jim’s plan. These people live to cruise and run their own cruise business out of their house, Jim would kill to be able to walk away from his County job and cruise full time at a profit (they set up and then lead cruise packages). But he can’t, he has some conditions that required surgery of a type that guarantees he could not even get private coverage.

    Lots of people are in Jim’s position, eligible for early retirement either by investments, vesting in employer plan, or eligible for early retirement under Social Security. And in many, many cases only prevented from doing so by a lack of a bridge between employer covered plans and Medicare. Would employees benefit from an affordable bridge plan? Well if the alternative is no coverage at all, sure. Would employers benefit? Boy howdy, employees who are sticking around just for the benefits package are not likely to be your most productive ones. So what prevents employers setting up a win/win bridge health care plan? A certain Third Circuit decision in 2000.

    Barbara, methinks you got this thing flipped. If the policy choice is coverage vs no coverage you want to come down on the coverage side and the EEOC ruling facilitates bridge coverage. Because the alternative is no coverage at all after you leave covered employment.

    How does this advance single payer? Well if you have a system where people over 65 are universally covered by Medicare, people in the workforce are covered either by employer paid or employer subsidized insurance (through pools), and people in early retirement eligible for the same coverage as they got when they were working, all of a sudden you have the insurance system and medical care industry at large in a bind. If by and large you can’t exclude people and you are competing with a government plan that provides for all medically deemed necessary care, how do you make money? Answer is you don’t, your powers of resisting Medicare for all (i.e. Single Payer) start fading away.

    If in fact some large percentage of Americans actually were getting employer paid medical coverage in retirement this would be seen as a huge takeaway from workers. But in fact this coverage is generally only available in industries where labor was able to get these kind of contracts pre-Medicare, e.g. Big Three Auto and Boeing. Now that Medicare is in place it is perfectly reasonable for big unions to trade off health care coverage for Medicare eligible workers for coverage for early retirees. It sounds perverse but anything which gets more people covered net advances Single Payer.

  17. Bonnie  •  Dec 28, 2007 @11:38 am

    Thanks, erinyes.

  18. Tom  •  Dec 28, 2007 @7:19 pm

    You know I’d take criticism of Bush and Medicare issues from AARP with a little more seriousness if AARP hadn’t been one of the key players in getting the Medicare Destruction Bill passed in Congress. Without AARP’s support the measure, designed to destroy Medicare through the guarantee given to Big Pharma that they could charge the government as much as they want for drugs, would have failed.

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