ObamaCare's early retiree health insurance fund, originally intended to last all the way until 2014, is just about out of money:
A $5 billion fund that helped cover health insurance for more than five million early retirees will stop taking claims for expenses incurred after Dec. 31 because it is running out of money, according to a notice Friday in the Federal Register.
The funds were used to reimburse employers who subsidize health insurance for early retirees, ages 55 to 64, not yet eligible for Medicare. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services posted an update on the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program, part of the 2010 health law, noting that $4.5 billion had been spent as of Dec. 9. The early exhaustion of funds due to heavy enrollment had been anticipated.
In this case, "anticipated" refers to the fact that the program was shut down in April—only about two and a half years ahead of schedule—because the money started flying out the door far faster than expected. The program offered generous subsidies to big corporations and unions if they decided to fund health insurance for early retirees; essentially any employer that promised not to fund insurance for folks who clocked out of work a few years early got money. Shockingly (but not really), it turned out there were more large employers ready to sign up for the subsidies than expected. As of April, 2011, the United Auto Workers union had taken the biggest single payout, at a little more than $200 million. Telecom companies AT&T and Verizon took $140 million and $91 million, respectively, during the same time period. More than half of the money spent in its first year of operation went straight to government-run retirement plans in California, New Jersey, Kentucky, and other states. (In many respects, the program looks like an attempt at a partial backdoor bailout for these plans.) Thanks to dwindling funds, the program was shuttered to new entrants years early, and won't be taking new claims as of the end of this year.
In the Obama administration, this is what's known as a success.