WASHINGTON, DC – June 25, 2021 – U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) reintroduced the Expanding Health Care Options for Early Retirees Act, a bill to allow retired first responders—including police officers, firefighters, and EMS personnel—to buy into Medicare beginning at age 50. Congressman Tom Malinowski (NJ-7), introduced the companion measure in the House.
“Ohio firefighters and other first-responders wear their bodies out protecting our families and communities, and they should have access to affordable health care when their service comes to an end,” said Senator Brown. “This is a simple solution for first responders who are forced to retire but aren’t yet eligible for Medicare.”
“First responders always come when we need them, and they have stepped up in truly heroic ways throughout the course of the pandemic,” said Congressman Malinowski, a member of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus and the Congressional Law Enforcement Caucus. “This bill would ensure that when first responders retire, they have access to the quality, reliable health coverage they have earned and deserve.”
First responders often retire earlier than other workers and can experience gaps in coverage until they become eligible for Medicare at 65. This legislation ensures that retired first responders who are 50 and older will have access to affordable, comprehensive health insurance—regardless of whether their pension plan provides for coverage upon retirement.
Coverage provided under this bill would be identical to the coverage provided under the existing Medicare program. Retirees would be eligible for tax credits, subsidies, and tax-advantaged contributions from their former employer or pension plan. Further, this bill specifically requires that it be implemented in such a way that it will not negatively impact the existing Medicare program, beneficiaries, or trust fund.
“As early retirees, too many fire fighters and emergency medical personnel lack affordable healthcare before reaching the age for Medicare eligibility,” said Edward Kelly, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters. “As healthcare costs steadily increase, finding quality healthcare options during these gap years can be a real hardship. On behalf of the 324,000 members of the International Association of Fire Fighters, I am proud to support the Expanding Health Care Options for Early Retirees Act to allow fire fighters and EMS personnel the right to buy into Medicare at age 50, and thank Representative Malinowski for its introduction. I urge its passing as this bill will close the healthcare gap facing our retirees and provide certainty and peace of mind for our members – allowing them to enjoy the dignified retirement that they earned.”
“We believe this legislation addresses a very real and critical need for the men and women who served their communities as public safety officers by providing them with a bridge of coverage following their retirement until they reach the age of 65,” said Pat Yoes, National President of the Fraternal Order of Police.
The bill has been endorsed by the Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund, the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO), the National Troopers Coalition (NTC), the National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems (NCPERS), the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), the International Union of Police Associations (IUPA), the Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey (PFANJ), and the New Jersey Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association (NJFMBA).