Can they change my retiree health benefits?


Q. I am a 93 year old retiree from Anheuser Busch. When I retired, I received wonderful benefits. After 19 years of retirement, the company was sold to a foreign company. My health benefits were cut drastically. Can they do that?
— Retired

A. We don’t have definitive news for you, and we hope you kept your paperwork when you retired.

Per a 2013 Department of Labor brief, when employers offer retiree health benefits, nothing in federal law prevents them from cutting or eliminating those benefits – unless they have made a specific promise to maintain the benefits, said Alison Hall, a certified financial planner with Stonegate Wealth Management in Oakland.

So, she said, the answer to your question depends on the company and the summary plan document or controlling document that was in effect when you retired.

“If the document cites the right to change the terms of your retirement benefits, coverage may be reduced or lost entirely,” Hall said.

If you saved a copy of the summary plan document that was in place at your retirement, see if it says a continuance of benefits is promised for a certain period of time.

“If this language does not exist or if retiree benefits are not mentioned at all, your coverage is likely not guaranteed,” Hall said. “With the company being purchased by a foreign entity, it may be difficult to obtain these documents, but for a company of that size, records should be attainable.”

Email your questions to moc.p1563743475leHye1563743475noMJN1563743475@ksA1563743475.