The most common form of postretirement benefit plan other than pensions (typically referred to as an OPEB plan) is a promise to provide healthcare benefits to retirees. The promise may be either to reimburse retirees for their payments for healthcare services, pay insurance premiums directly, or provide the services to retirees directly. However, OPEB plans are comprised of all forms of benefits other than pensions provided to retirees and their spouses, dependents, and beneficiaries. These include life insurance offered outside of a pension plan, legal and tax services, tuition assistance, daycare services, and housing assistance.
A postretirement benefit plan generally exists whenever an employer promises to provide benefits other than pension benefits to employees after they retire. Those to whom a promise has been made typically include current and former employees (including retirees and disabled employees). The benefits may extend to the employees’ spouses, dependents, and beneficiaries. The provisions of ASC 715 do not extend to other postemployment benefits arising from circumstances other than retirement. Such benefits, which are payable after employment ends but before retirement begins (e.g., severance benefits), are covered by ASC 712, Compensation - Nonretirement Postemployment Benefits (see PEB 8), and, in some instances, ASC 420, Exit or Disposal Cost Obligations (see PEB 8).
An employer may sponsor a health care plan permitting retirees to continue participation on a "pay all" basis (i.e., by requiring a retiree contribution based on the estimated per capita cost of coverage). In some plans, retiree contributions are established based on the average per capita cost of coverage for the entire plan group (i.e., actives and retirees when the plan provides coverage to both), rather than the per capita cost for retirees only. While not readily apparent, this practice provides a postretirement benefit to the extent that the retirees are contributing less than the actual costs someone their age would incur for healthcare because retirees as a group usually incur medical costs that are greater than the average cost for active employees and retirees. The employer's OPEB obligation would be calculated as the portion of the future cost of retiree health care benefits not recovered through retiree contributions, Medicare, or other reimbursements. Refer to ASC 715-60-35-97 and ASC 715-60-55-6.
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