NFL, union will contribute to retiree premiums

NEW YORK -- The NFL and its union will pay a combined $100 a month toward the Medicare costs of retired players under a new plan announced Tuesday.

The program begins Jan. 1 for ex-players over 65 who are vested in the league's pension plan. The money will go to the monthly premium of the player's coverage.

"We are pleased that we can offer this benefit, as well as other recent improvements to the health and disability benefits provided for retired players," Richard Berthelsen, acting executive director of the NFL Players Association, said in a statement issued by the league and union. "This ensures that every retiree can afford some level of supplemental coverage above basic Medicare."

Commissioner Roger Goodell added that both sides "continue to be responsive to their needs."

The problems of destitute players and other retirees has been a subject of continuing complaints from ex-players. Much of the criticism was aimed at Gene Upshaw, the late executive director of the NFLPA who died in August.