Program for early retirees will end Dec. 31

The healthcare laws program for early retirees has exhausted its $5 billion budget and will shut down at the end of the year, the Health and Human Services Department said Friday.

The healthcare law authorized the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program (ERRP) through 2014 or until its funding ran out . Its early termination is a sign of its popularity — employers simply overwhelmed the program, which reimburses them for some of the cost of providing healthcare benefits to retirees and their families.

HHS stopped letting new people into the program in May, making it clear that EERP wouldnt make it to 2014. The department announced Friday that it wont reimburse any claims incurred after Dec. 31.

Most of the programs beneficiaries retired from state or local governments. Unions are also well-represented, prompting charges from some Republicans that the fund was being allocated politically. A recent Government Accountability Office report, however, showed the process was unbiased and money was awarded solely on a first-come, first-served basis.

— This post was updated at 1:50 p.m.