By Mike Watson, TSCL Legislative Assistant
In March of this year, after nearly a year of debate in Congress, President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law. As the initial media coverage and analysis of the new law reached a fever pitch, there were many news reports on a certain provision of the law that relates to prescription drug coverage retirees receive through their former employers.
The piece of the law under discussion relates to the way the government subsidizes companies that provide prescription drug coverage to retirees. When Congress created Medicare Part D, it also created an incentive for employers to continue providing prescription drug coverage to their retirees. Under current law, the government subsidizes 28% of the costs that employers incur from providing prescription drug coverage to retirees who are at least 65 and Medicare eligible. The companies that receive the subsidy are then allowed to deduct 100% of the costs of providing coverage to their retirees from their taxes—this deduction also includes the 28% subsidy that the government provides. The new healthcare law keeps the 28% subsidy intact but starting in 2013 it removes the ability of companies in computing their taxes to deduct the subsidy they receive from the government.
Some have hailed this provision as the closing of a “loophole,” while others have said the provision will cause companies to cut jobs, and cut prescription drug coverage for retirees. Because companies would no longer be able to deduct the subsidy, it would increase the taxes they expect to pay under current law. The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) is monitoring this provision’s potential effects on retirees. TSCL is concerned that some employers may cancel the often-generous prescription drug coverage that they provide to their retirees as a result of the expected increased costs of providing that benefit. If any retirees lose their current prescription drug coverage, they could then go through Medicare Part D to get their prescription drug coverage.
TSCL recommends that anyone unsure of how the provision may affect you should talk with the human resources director of your former employer or union through which you receive benefits. To learn more about TSCL’s legislative work read the weekly legislative updates; or to learn more about TSCL’s key issues, please visit www.seniorsleague.org.