Investigators for the House Energy and Commerce Committee have
discovered that a little-known provision in the national health care law
has allowed the federal government to pay nearly $2 billion to unions,
state public employee systems, and big corporations to subsidize health
coverage costs for early retirees. At the current rate of payment, the
$5 billion appropriated for the program could be exhausted well before
it is set to expire.
… The program began making payouts on June 1, 2010. Between that date
and the end of 2010, it paid out about $535 million dollars. But
according to the new report, the rate of spending has since increased
dramatically, to about $1.3 billion just for the first two and a half
months of this year. At that rate, it could burn through the entire $5
billion appropriation as early as 2012.
Where is the money going? According to the new report, the biggest
single recipient of an early-retiree bailout is the United Auto Workers,
which has so far received $206,798,086. Other big recipients include
AT&T, which received $140,022,949, and Verizon, which received
$91,702,538. General Electric, in the news recently for not paying any
U.S. taxes last year, received $36,607,818. General Motors, recipient
of a massive government bailout, received $19,002,669.
The program also paid large sums of money to state governments. The
Public Employees Retirement System of Ohio received $70,557,764; the
Teacher Retirement System of Texas received $68,074,118; the California
Public Employees Retirement System, or CalPERS, received $57,834,267;
the Georgia Department of Community Health received $57,936,127; and the
state of New York received $47,869,044. Other states received lesser
but still substantial sums.
But payments to individual states were dwarfed by the payout to the
auto workers union, which received more than the states of New York,
California, and Texas combined. Other unions also received government
funds, including the United Food and Commercial Workers, the United Mine
Workers, and the Teamsters.