Back in May 2010, HHS announced a $5 billion program to help employers fund health care for their early retirees – people who are not yet eligible for Medicare. The fund was much talked about in the news, and pundits predicted it would all be gone within two years if not before. That meant it wouldn’t last until 2014, when early retirees can get guaranteed issue insurance on state health benefit exchanges.

Well, it looks like those predictions may have been a little pessimistic. To date, according to U.S. News & World Report, only $535 million of that $5 billion has been paid out. State and local governments and non-profits make up the majority of employers who’ve applied for and been granted funds.

At this rate the money will last for ten years. (If you’re interested in participating, go here for details.) So what about it, employers? Why has so little of this fund been used?

This post on Steve Ungar’s Forbes blog poses an interesting question: are more small businesses starting to offer health insurance as a result of the Affordable care act? No statistics yet, but some anecdotal evidence from carriers suggests that it’s possible the tax breaks in the bill for small businesses who offer insurance are working as intended.

Results of a new survey by consulting firm Mercer say no. According to survey reponses, only 6% of employers with more than 500 workers, and just 3% of very large employers with 10,000 or more workers, say they are likely to terminate their health plans and send employees to the state insurance exchanges to seek individual insurance plans.

Click on the link above for more information about how small employers will react, and what all employers expect the cost impact of healthcare reform to be. The full survey will be released later this month.

A very interesting chart just posted on the Kaiser Health News site shows that the percent of large employers offering retiree health benefits is at its lowest point ever in 2010. You can also view a whole lot of other interesting data from this page, if you’re interested in knowing more about the state of retiree health care benefits.