C. William Jones

It sort of gives you the feeling that maybe it was a gift given by a generous employer and that it didn’t necessarily have to be continued or made good on.  So we consider our benefits more as being deferred compensation.  We worked for it during our working years, we earned it, and we expect to have it when we retire.  And I think that everyone, including the officers in the business in those days, believed that too. 

They do dangerous things.  They either don’t take their prescriptions, or they cut pills in half, which very can be very serious, or maybe take them every other day, which would be injurious to your health to do that.
We estimate that it costs -- right now, it costs $15,000 for a family for coverage. So for an individual, it’s probably still close to $8,000 a year, for an individual.  And those numbers go up as you age, too.  As you need the medical coverage more, the costs go up.  Fortunately, Medicare kicks in at 65 and that saves the day for a lot of people.

This isn’t something a person makes one decision on. When I got hired, one of the first things they said to me was, “Don’t just look at your salary alone.  We have a compensation package, which is extensive.  We have the best pension plan money can buy.  We have full healthcare coverage that you don’t contribute anything to, for you and your family for a long as you live.  We have other benefits:  concession telephone service, we can buy stock at a discount in the company, on and on…Very good benefits.”  And so you signed on for the compensation package, not for the salary. 

Somewhere along in the middle of your career, everybody must experience this, where they say, “Gee, you know, I see some friends that are doing very very well in another industry.  Maybe there’d be that I should take a look at that.  Well, you take a look at it and then you realize, “You know, I’ve got all of these benefits, which will go away if I jump ship now.  And what is this new corporation providing?”  And if it’s not equal to (and it can’t be, because you’ve been earning your pension all along), chances are you’re going to say, as I did, “No, I think I’ll stay right where I am.”

And then the third time everybody faces this question is when they decide to retire.  “Can I afford to retire now?” And when you look at what your pension would be (which is easily able to be calculated), you look at your healthcare and all the other things, you say “Yeah, I can do it now.”  To get out the door and then have the rug pulled out from underneath you and lose your healthcare, which is a big number, that would be disastrous. 

So HR 1322, will protect people, just like it protects the pension.  It’s an amendment to ERISA and ERISA protects your pension.  The only thing that is going to stop the pension is bankruptcy, and frankly that won’t even stop because the Pension Benefit Guaranty Trust [Corporation] takes over (it’s a governmental agency), and you’ll get a pension from them.  It may not be exactly what you had before, but it’ll be something.  Most retirees have a fixed income.  We haven’t had -- I was just talking to a retiree a few minutes ago, who said, “You know, I retired in 1989,” and he said, “and I never got a pension increase.”  The only one he got was the one that we secured for the retirees which was a lump payment in the year 2000.  It’s the only thing one he’s had in all those years.  Now for that person, his pension is worth probably just a little over half what it was the day he retired in 1989.  Inflation has eaten away at that pension over that period of time.  So, imagine, now this fellow -- his pension’s worth half of what is was, and now we’re going to take away $12-14,000 worth of healthcare benefits and let him pay those.  It’s just a perfect storm.