Retiree Health Benefits: Employer-Sponsored Benefits May Be Vulnerable to Further Erosion Page: 4 of 42
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Accountability * Integrity * Reliability
United States General Accounting Office
Washington, DC 20548
May 1, 2001
The Honorable James M. Jeffords
Chairman, Committee on Health,
Education, Labor, and Pensions
United States Senate
Dear Mr. Chairman:
In 1999, about 10 million retired people aged 55 and over relied on
employer-sponsored health insurance as either their primary source of
coverage or a supplement to their Medicare coverage.' For some of these
individuals, however, concerns exist that the continued availability of
employer-sponsored coverage may be uncertain. As we reported in 1998,
the percentage of employers offering retiree coverage to early retirees-
those aged 55 to 64-had dropped from about 70 percent in the 1980s to
about 40 percent in 1997.2
Concerned about declining employer-sponsored health coverage for early
retirees and Medicare-eligible (age 65 and over) retirees, you asked us to
examine if this trend is continuing. In particular, you asked that we
* changes employers have made to the availability and terms of their health
insurance plans with respect to retiree coverage;
* how factors such as economic conditions, Medicare changes, and
demographic trends may influence employers' future provision of retiree
health benefits; and
* the ability of retirees without employer-sponsored coverage to obtain
To answer these questions, we reviewed available employer survey data;
analyzed the March supplements of the 1995 to 2000 Current Population
1In this report, "employer-sponsored" is used to refer to any employment-based group
health coverage, including health plans offered under collectively bargained agreements
and multiple employer associations.
2Private Health Insurance: Declining Employer Coverage May Affect Access for 55- to 64-
Year-Olds (GAO/HEHS-98-133, June 1, 1998). A list of related GAO products is included at
the end of this report.
GAO-01-374 Retiree Health Benefits
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United States. General Accounting Office. Retiree Health Benefits: Employer-Sponsored Benefits May Be Vulnerable to Further Erosion, report, May 1, 2001; Washington D.C.. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc291701/m1/4/: accessed April 26, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.