FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: AARP Media Relations, 202-434-2560, email@example.com
A federal judge, responding to a lawsuit by AARP, today temporarily blocked the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) from issuing an age discriminatory rule that opens the door to elimination of employer-sponsored health benefits for Medicare recipients. The judge's ruling delays final implementation for at least sixty days.
"We took this action to protect our members and all retirees from losing their rights under the age discrimination laws" explained David Certner, AARP's Director of Federal Affairs. This would have put millions of retirees at greater risk for losing their retiree health coverage.
The lawsuit is designed to clear the way for additional discussions among policymakers and other interested parties that will lead to proposals that protect retirees while addressing employers' concerns about rising health care costs.
AARP pursued this legal course after long and repeated attempts to find a better solution to the retiree health question proved unsuccessful. This action prevented the imminent implementation of the final rule. Failing to do this would have allowed employers to eliminate retiree health benefits without regard to age discrimination laws.
On April 22, 2004, the EEOC approved a final rule that exempts employers from the federal age discrimination law if they decide to abandon retirees' health coverage when the retirees become eligible for Medicare at age 65. This means that retirees can lose their retiree health benefits and will be barred from challenging their former employer's actions.
In anticipation of the EEOC rule taking effect, AARP and six of its members who are affected by the exemption earlier today filed the suit in District Court. AARP and the retirees asked for a preliminary injunction to block implementation of the EEOC rule, arguing that the agency acted illegally in limiting the provisions of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) by allowing companies to discriminate against those over 65.
"AARP is pleased that no rule will be issued until the District Court has the opportunity to decide the merits of the case," said Certner.
This is one battle in AARP's larger fight to bring affordable and accessible health care to everyone. The organization successfully prevented inclusion of a provision in the Medicare prescription drug legislation in 2003 that would have allowed employers to eliminate health coverage for retirees over age 65 while maintaining more generous benefits to retirees under 65.
AARP recognizes that rising health care costs pose challenges to all, including employers. In fact, over the past decade, employers have been reducing or dropping retiree health benefits because of rising health care costs.
That is why AARP supported the inclusion of $71 billion in direct federal subsidies in the 2003 prescription drug bill to help defray employers' prescription drug costs for retirees.
In its suit, AARP contends that the EEOC is charged with preventing age discrimination, not with making health care policy choices that could result in employers eliminating benefits for those who become eligible for Medicare.