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NEWS - Large Companies Moving Retirees off Health Care Plans

November 22, 2014 – Milwaukee, WI – Claudia Vanroosenbeek spent 43 years at the Allen-Bradley Co., starting in the accounting department at 17 and moving through a succession of jobs with more responsibility.

“I had an interesting career,” she said. “I loved it.”

Her appreciation of that career didn’t change last summer when she and other retirees were told that Rockwell Automation, which bought the Allen-Bradley Co. in 1985, planned to stop offering retiree health benefits in five years.

The company’s decision, though, was a disappointment.

“We took great pride in our jobs, and we had loyalty,” said Vanroosenbeek, 78. “The consensus of many people is, ‘Where is the loyalty by the company?'”

Relatively few companies have opted to stop offering health benefits to retirees completely. But as health care costs have steadily risen and as people live longer, more firms have taken steps to limit the benefits.

Among large employers — those with 1,000 or more workers — 60% have instituted caps on benefits for retirees eligible for Medicare, according to an annual survey by Towers Watson and the National Business Group on Health.

Such changes evoke strong emotions, and the responses show how people who came of age in the 1950s and ’60s believed that a bond existed between a company and its workers.

“To me, this is a betrayal,” said Daniel Blanchard, 64, who worked for Allen-Bradley just short of 29 years. “For those of us who spent the bulk of our lives at this place and contributed to the success of the company, I still feel they have an obligation to us.”

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