Yet another failure of employer-based health insurance

If you’ve been on the job market in the last decade or two, you may know how hard it is to find a job with good benefits.

A lesser-known fact of life in this country is that even if you think your employer provides great health care coverage, you could get shafted later. nyceve has written a book’s worth of diaries about “Murder by Spreadsheet,” when for-profit insurance companies find excuses to refuse to cover needed medical care.

Insurance companies are not always to blame, however. Corporations looking to cut costs sometimes yank promised health benefits from retirees who put in many years of work and in some cases gave up pay raises in exchange for better benefits packages.

The makers of John Deere machinery have provided the latest example of this travesty. In response, some 5,000 former employees of Deere & Co. filed a class action lawsuit this week

demanding that company officials reset the clock to 2007 and restore health benefits that court papers say were drastically cut back this year.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Des Moines, alleges Moline, Ill.-based Deere broke longtime promises to its employees when the company on Jan. 1 “eliminated, reduced and dramatically altered” benefits pledged under retiree health plans.

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Court papers say the company for more than 15 years promised lifetime health benefits to employees who vested in Deere & Co. pension plans, and Deere can’t now back out of that deal.

In July about 3,000 retired former Maytag employees learned that Whirlpool, which bought Maytag in 2005, is trying to reduce their health benefits as well.

The Des Moines Register reported today that officials from Iowa’s Senior Health Insurance Information Program have scheduled meetings in Newton on September 17 “to warn Maytag retirees about upcoming choices and deadlines in the wake of a decision by Whirlpool to reduce their health benefits.” Maytag retirees have filed a class-action suit in Michigan claiming that Whirlpool must honor Maytag’s contracts that promised “vested lifetime retiree health care benefits.” That lawsuit is pending, as is a separate case filed by Whirlpool, seeking to impose the benefit changes on Maytag retirees.

Speaking of our screwed-up health care system, today nyceve posted a wonderful diary contrasting a video of John McCain saying, “Like Most Americans, I go see my doctor fairly frequently” with footage of Joe Biden talking about health care on the stump. Click through, these videos are worth your time.

It’s no surprise that McCain is out of touch with the realities of health care in this country. After all, one of the authors of McCain’s health “reform” proposal thinks there are no uninsured Americans as long as sick people can go to the emergency room.  

  • From the employer's perspective

    Health care is no picnic for the employers either.  Under today’s rules, we’re not allowed to form a group of employers into a bigger pool.  Instead each company (ours employs about 20 people) has to take on the insurance Goliath by themselves.  It’s not easy, and it’s not cheap.

    I would love to see the burden of health care taken away from the employers simply so that our company can complete with larger companies for benefits…

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