Retiree Health Benefit Trends Among the Medicare-Eligible Population
Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI)
January 1, 2010
EBRI Notes, Vol. 31, No. 1, January 2010
This paper examines the prevalence of retiree health benefits among Medicare-eligible retirees. It discusses the percentage of retirees with employment-based retiree health benefits over the 1994-2008 period. It also examines the trend for individually purchased coverage as a supplement to Medicare. Perhaps the single most-important factor that has affected the availability of health benefits for retirees through former private-sector employers was a 1990 accounting rule. FAS 106 required companies to record and disclose retiree health benefit liabilities on their financial statements and triggered many of the changes to retiree health benefits, most notably the sharp decline in the benefits being offered. GASB Statements No. 43 and 45, which impose new accounting standards on public-sector sponsors of retiree health benefits, are similar to FAS 106 and will have a similar, if not greater, impact on the financial statements of public-sector entities. As a result of FAS 106 and the rising cost of providing retiree health benefits, most U.S. private-sector workers will never become eligible for health insurance in retirement through a former employer. Fewer employers are offering health benefits to future retirees; when those benefits are offered, eligibility criteria are becoming harder to meet; and employer subsidies are disappearing. In 2008, 26 percent of 65-69-year-olds had retiree health benefits, down from 32 percent in 1994, and the numbers are lower for older retirees. It is possible that the decline in coverage would have been even larger had it not been for changes in the work status of individuals eligible for Medicare. In 1995, 59 percent of individuals ages 65-69 considered themselves retired, and that fell to 53.6 percent in 2008, while those saying they were working increased from 28 percent in 1995 to 35 percent in 2008.
The PDF for the above title, published in the January 2010 issue of EBRI Notes, also contains the full text of another January 2010 EBRI Notes article abstracted on SSRN: “Employee Tenure, 2008.”
Number of Pages in PDF File: 20
Keywords: Employment-based benefits, FAS 106, Medicaid, Medicare supplement insurance, Retiree health benefits
JEL Classification: I1, I18, J14, J3, J32Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: January 9, 2010
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