Retiree Health Benefits: Options for Employment-Based Prescription Drug Benefits under the Medicare Modernization Act

GAO-05-205 Published: Feb 14, 2005. Publicly Released: Feb 14, 2005.
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The Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 (MMA) created a prescription drug benefit for beneficiaries, called Medicare part D, beginning in January 2006. The MMA included incentives for sponsors of employment-based retiree health plans to offer prescription drug benefits to Medicare-eligible retirees, such as a federal subsidy when sponsors provide benefits meeting certain MMA requirements. Plan sponsors cannot receive a subsidy for retired Medicare beneficiaries who enroll in part D. In response to an MMA mandate, GAO determined (1) the trends in employment-based retiree health coverage prior to the MMA and (2) which MMA prescription drug options plan sponsors said they would pursue and the effect these options might have on retiree health benefits. GAO identified trends using data from federal and private sector surveys of employers' health benefit plans and financial statements of 50 randomly selected Fortune 500 employers. Where data for Medicare-eligible retirees were not available, GAO reported data for all retirees, including Medicare-eligible retirees. To obtain plan sponsors' views about options they were likely to pursue, GAO reviewed the 50 employers' financial reports and interviewed benefit consultants; private and public sector plan sponsors, including the Office of Personnel Management for federal employees' health benefits; and other experts.

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