Some Maine employers are among the first in the nation to qualify for new federal reimbursements to help provide insurance to early retirees.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services today announced the first round of applicants accepted into the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program. The nearly 2,000 will begin to receive reimbursements for employee claims this fall, it said.

Created by the Affordable Care Act, the program provides $5 billion in financial assistance to employers and unions to help them maintain coverage for early retirees age 55 and older who are not yet eligible for Medicare. The program ends on January 1, 2014, when state health insurance exchanges are scheduled to be up and running.

In Maine, the Portland Water District, University of Maine System and Unum Group have been approved in the first round. Starting in September, approved applicants can begin submitting claims dating back to June 1, 2010, and, starting in October, approved applicants will receive reinsurance payments on those claims.

HHS also announced today two information tools for employers and unions interested in the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program – a new website <a
href=”” target=”blank”>(</a> and a new hotline (877-574-3777 or 877-574-ERRP).