"In these tough economic times, it is difficult for employers to keep up with skyrocketing healthcare costs for employees and retirees," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, in a statement. "Many Americans who retire before they are eligible for Medicare see their life savings disappear because of medical bills and exorbitant rates in the individual health insurance market."
Commerce Department Secretary Gary Locke, commenting Tuesday on the White House Website blog, said much interest has flared up from businesses and organizations from across the country since the reinsurance program was announced three months ago.
"We have received applications from more than half of the Fortune 500 companies, all major unions, and government entities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia," Locke said. The new reinsurance program "will directly reduce companies? health premiums for many retirees?[offering] an important bridge for early retirees who are not yet eligible for Medicare."
According to HHS, the approved applications represent nearly all sectors of the economy: 32% came from businesses, 26% from state and local governments; 22% from union sponsors; 14% from schools and other educational institutions: and 5% from non-profits.