Two mainstream news organizations are receiving hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars from Obamacare’s Early Retiree Reinsurance Program (ERRP) — a $5 billion grant program that’s doling out cash to companies, states and labor unions in what the Obama administration considers an effort to pay for health insurance for early retirees. The Washington Post Company raked in $573,217 in taxpayer subsidies and CBS Corporation secured $722,388 worth of Americans’ money.
“It is fine with me if they continue covering the ObamaCare debate,” said Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee, in an e-mail to The Daily Caller. “When NBC used to cover energy issues, they identified themselves as a subsidiary of General Electric. CBS and Washington Post just have to disclose that they are subsidiaries of the Obama Administration.”
The ERRP, which Republicans call a slush fund, provides taxpayer money to Obama administration-selected states, companies and labor unions with already-in-place early retiree health insurance programs, and aims to make certain that their employees who retire early still have health insurance coverage before they reach Medicare eligibility age. Almost $2 billion of the $5 billion fund, which was supposed to last until 2014, has already been distributed to corporations. New projections expect the funding to run out before the end of 2012, if not sooner.
At a Friday morning hearing, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, chaired by Rep. Cliff Stearns, Florida Republican, asked Center for Consumer Information & Insurance Oversight (CCIO) official Steven Larsen for how the administration decides who gets a slice of the $5 billion pie – and how the application process works. In his response, Stearns referred to the fact that corporations like General Electric, Verizon and AT&T in addition to several labor unions were getting taxpayer funding.
Stearns was not impressed. “This program is providing ‘free’ money to corporations, states, unions, and pension plans,” the Congressman said in an e-mail to TheDC. “In addition, the Washington Post and CBS received funding under this program. How can the Washington Post and CBS be impartial on the issue of health care when they received funding under the health care law?”
CBS Corporation spokesman Gil Schwartz told TheDC that newsroom employees, like any other CBS employees, are indeed allowed to take the taxpayer subsidies.
“Yes they are,” Schwartz said. “Why wouldn’t newsroom employees be allowed access to that money like all other CBS employees?”
CBS gets the money from the government, then provides early retirees with health insurance.
Though no current newsroom employees can benefit from the ERRP funds, they could retire early and still benefit from the money – or any newsroom employee who has retired since Obamacare became law could benefit from it too.
The Washington Post declined to comment. “We have no additional information to provide you other than what you have,” Post spokeswoman Rima Calderon told TheDC.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) told TheDC she couldn’t disclose information about applications or disbursements for specific companies.
In addition to CBS Corporation and the Washington Post Company, recipients of ERRP funding include the United Auto Workers union, which secured $206,798,086 in taxpayer money, AT&T, which took in $140,022,949, and General Electric (GE), which raked in $36,607,818. GE has made headlines recently for not paying any U.S. taxes last year. IBM got $12,989,690 in taxpayer money.
Verizon pulled $91,702,538 in taxpayer cash, too, and General Motors received $19,002,669. More than $6 million went to different Teamsters groups nationwide, and millions more went to the United Mine Workers, United Food and Commercial Workers, the AFL-CIO and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).