The American Automobile Assn., Kaiser Permanente, Blue Cross/Blue Shield and other large, independent insurance carriers all could make excellent sponsors. Congress should give the new Triple-A plans, with independent third parties behind the wheel, the same valuable tax treatment enjoyed by traditional defined-benefit plans and 401(k)s.
Employers should welcome the new plans. Group contracts, no doubt, would cut costs. And employer contributions would make them a breed apart from today's IRAs.
But the ultimate beneficiaries would be retirement savers, and they have needs that aren't being met with current pension plans. Many would be better off in a defined-benefit plan, but without back-loading. Such a thing, unfortunately, doesn't exist in today's marketplace. Workers should have better choices at four stages:
* they should be able to choose a Triple-A plan or to stick with the old way;
* savers, once in a Triple-A plan, should decide whether and to what extent they want to take a defined-benefit approach;