Health reform foes request federal funds for early retirees

About two dozen businesses associated with high-profile opposition to the healthcare reform law are taking advantage of a provision that helps pay for their retirees' medical bills, according to a review of federal records by The Hill. The Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday announced that almost 2,000 employers and unions have been accepted into the $5 billion Early Retiree Reinsurance Program, with more applications pending.

The application by Koch Industries of Kansas immediately raised eyebrows because its principal owners — Charles and David Koch — have been high-profile opponents of healthcare reform and bankrollers of the Tea Party movement.

But a state-by-state review of approved applicants reveals that more than a dozen members of the board of directors of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have also been accepted into the program. The Chamber has been a leading foe of the law.

"We’re pleased the Affordable Care Act is delivering much-needed relief to businesses that provide coverage for their retirees," said an administration official.

The Chamber members include: 

  • Pfizer, PepsiCo, New York Life Insurance Company, Eastman Kodak and IBM of New York; 
  • Rolls-Royce North America, the Norfolk Southern Corporation and the Altria Group of Virginia;
  • UPS and Southern Company of Georgia;
  • John Deere and Navistar of Illinois;
  • AT&T and the Fluor Corporation of Texas; 
  • U.S. Airways of Arizona;
  • Entergy Services Inc. of Louisiana;
  • The Dow Chemical Company of Michigan;
  • Anheuser-Busch of Missouri;
  • FedEx Express of Tennessee;
  • CUNA Mutual Group of Wisconsin;
  • And Pepco Holdings Co. of Washington, D.C.

Being members of the Chamber's board of directors doesn't mean the companies agree with all of its stances. Pfizer, for example, has been a vocal proponent of the law and even gave its CEO Jeff Kindler a raise in salary and bonuses after it passed, according to CBS News and other reports.