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House Panel To Look At Part D Controversy

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The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s oversight subcommittee plans to hold a hearing April 21 on a change in the rules governing subsidies for retiree prescription benefits programs.

The American Benefits Council, Washington, has been leading an effort to spread the message that the change will force publicly traded employers that continue to offer prescription benefits for retirees to put a charge on their financial statements to reflect expected increases in tax payments.

Congressional put a retiree prescription benefits subsidy in the bill that created the Medicare Part D prescription drug program to keep big companies from shutting down their prescription plans and sending enrollees to sign up for Part D coverage.

Executives such as Samuel Allen, chairman of Deere & Company, Moline, Ill., and Randall Stephenson, chairman of AT&T Inc., Dallas, have written to Congress to express concerns about a move to by the federal government to tax the subsidy.

Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., the chairman of the subcommittee convening the hearing, is recently drew attention by leading efforts to shape health bill provisions dealing with concerns about the possibility that subsidized health insurance plans sold through a new health insurance exchange system might directly or indirectly pay for abortions.

Corporate executives’ claims that Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and H.R. 4872 provisions “could adversely affect their company’s ability to provide health insurance to their employees…appear to conflict with independent analyses, which show that the new law will expand coverage and bring down costs,” House Energy and Commerce Committee officials say in the hearing announcement.

James Klein, president of the American Benefits Council, says accounting rules clearly require companies to reflect the Part D change hit before they announce first-quarter earnings.

“No regulations will or could be issued to change that,” Klein says in a statement. “Only a complete reversal of the provision will negate these losses.”


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