USWA Cautions Bethlehem Retirees About 'Affordable' Healthcare Plan

March 31, 2003 ( - The United Steelworkers of America (USWA) has cautioned Bethlehem Steel Corp's retirees that a health plan currently being touted to the steelworkers as "affordable" may not provide the kind of security promised.

The plan, “REBCO Health Benefits Trust for Retirees of Bethlehem Steel,” was announced by the National Employee Benefits Companies, Inc (NEBCO) as an affordable health care option for Bethlehem retirees facing a March 31 loss of coverage. However, USWA is pointing to a similar plan promoted by NEBCO to former employees and retirees of LTV Steel shortly after the steel company terminated health care coverage last year. Based in part on that experience with NEBCO, the union warned Bethlehem retirees earlier this month to “beware of fly-by-night insurance schemes,” cautioning the Bethlehem plan includes high deductibles and out-of-pocket costs for limited coverage that is not fully insured, according to a USWA news release.

“The impending loss of retiree insurance coverage represents a golden opportunity for unscrupulous brokers, agents and hucksters,” noted a USWA healthcare brochure mailed to retired Bethlehem Steelworkers. The brochure added, “If a deal seems too good to be true, it usually is.”

Under the plan, retirees under age 65, for example, have annual in-network deductibles of $2,500 per individual and $5,000 per family (double for out-of-network coverage), and annual out-of-pocket expenses as high as $25,000 in addition to deductibles and co-pays, according to the REBCO/NEBCO website. However, both the rates and the coverage advertised on the site are “subject to approval,” according to the company’s disclaimer, which adds that rates and coverage can be changed “upon thirty days notice.”

Further, the USWA is stressing that the plan is not funded, associated, affiliated or endorsed by the USWA, and that the plan does not qualify for the federal Trade Adjustment Assistance program’s Health Insurance Tax Credit.Bethlehem will terminate benefits for approximately 95,000 retirees on March 31. (See Bethlehem Wants Plugs Pulled on Retiree Benefits ).