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65+ benefits at stake

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GLEN JACKSON
The Ellis County Press
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A federal agency instituted a regulation last week that will allow employers to deny medical and retiree benefits for their employees.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, according to a Dallas Morning News analysis of the new policy, will designate employees in two categories: those with comprehensive health/retirement benefits and those under 65 with less benefits.

The change was designed to allow employees to become eligible for Medicare.

The DMN reported the American Association for Retired People has denounced the plan as discriminating against age.

According to the EEOC, the new policy is not intended to encourage employers to eliminate current benefits. The DMN noted the agency was not required by federal law to provide employees (active or retired) with health benefits.

'What it means is that if an employer wants to abolish medical benefits that supplement or replace Medicare coverage, it may do so without engaging in age discrimination, a subject within the jurisdiction of the EEOC,' said Steve Bush, who is waging a challenge to Congressman Joe Barton as a Democrat.

'The rule says nothing about whether that employer might be in violation of contractual obligations, or might have liability under [federal law].

'Many companies, however, have language in their agreements with employees that allow them to terminate medical coverage of former employees when and if they see fit to do so.

'That is why some people were looking to EEOC for protection, which they now will not get.'

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