The Association of BellTel Retirees supports efforts to pass legislation that will prohibit employers from cancelling or reducing their retirees' health benefits. H.R. 1322, the Earned Retiree Healthcare Benefits Protection Act of 2011, was introduced into the 112th Congress by Rep. John Tierney. We encourage all members to become educated about this bill and ask your Representative and Senators for their support.
How can I get involved?
There are five ways you can get involved:
1. Attend a town hall meeting any time your your elected officials schedule one. If given the opportunity to ask a question, raise H.R.1322 and explain its importance to the Senator or Represenative and their staffs.
2. Make an appointment with your Represenative or Senator's local office to talk about H.R. 1322.
3. Send a letter to your Members of Congress letting them know how important H.R. 1322 is to you. Go to ProtectSeniors.Org's Legislative Action Center to view current letters and action alerts.
4. Call your Representative and Senators' offices and let them know how important this issue is to you. To find out who your Represenative is, go to www.house.gov and enter your zip code. To find out who your Senators are, go to www.senate.gov and search for your state. Each Member of Congress provides their contact information on their website.
5. Join ProtectSeniors.Org to ensure that you are staying on top of this issue with the latest information on what Congress is doing. Together we can protect the healthcare benefits we’ve earned, where as individuals we could not. Visit www.protectseniors.org
What Does H.R. 1322 Do?
Specifically, this legislation will:
--Prohibit group health plans from making post-retirement reductions in retiree benefits;
--Require plans to adopt provisions barring post-retirement cuts in retiree health benefits;
--Require employers to restore benefits reduced after retirement;
--Provide an exemption for employers who are unable to restore benefits because they would experience substantial business hardship to be determined by the Secretary of Labor.
What should I tell my elected officials about H.R. 1322?
The retirement benefits of seniors across the U.S. are under attack by the same large corporations who hired them years before.
We are not asking for handouts. We are asking that the companies we served for so many years keep their contract of providing us the healthcare we earned through years of work at reduced wages and other benefits. Corporate America is not struggling – we see the huge salaries being paid to corporate CEOs. If Congress lets this trend continue, it will only mean a bigger healthcare crisis in the very near future. Medicare can't handle millions of new beneficiaries and states cannot afford to meet its Medicaid needs at current levels much less adding thousands of new Medicaid beneficiaries each year. Either Congress forces corporate America to meet its obligations or the Federal government will end up picking up the cost for millions of new uninsured retirees.
We cannot afford to go another year with this issue being unresolved as many of us are struggling now to figure out a way to pay for benefits we earned that are now being taken away.
What are the most important things I should request from my elected official?
Before you leave any town hall or District office meeting be sure you accomplish three critical goals:
Ask your Representative or Senator to co-sponsor H.R. 1322. It is not enough to ask them to "support the bill" or "take your comments into consideration." Press them politely to give you a definite answer. If the meeting is with their staff, request a formal reply within a week and let them know you will be following up if you haven't heard from them by then.
If they say they won't co-sponsor H.R. 1322 find out why. If we know why they have problems with the bill, we can find ways to fix those problems. Many in Congress just don't understand that you gave up pay and other benefits all during your working career in exchange for the paid healthcare in retirement. These folks may believe the corporate hype that your retiree subsidized healthcare is a "welfare” or “legacy” benefit.
Ask them what changes need to be made to this legislation that would get them to support it publicly. Again, this information will help us modify the bill so that it will gain widespread support. If they have a certain issue, you can bet others will too.
These three requests will require you to be persistent while remaining polite. Your goal should be to not let the Members or their staff out of the room without having them answer these questions or committing to giving you an answer.