Ohio’s retired first responders say they are starting the new year with a new reason to worry about the future of their health care. 

The Ohio Police and Firefighters Pension Fund eliminated health care coverage for retirees who are not yet eligible for Medicare, replacing it with a monthly stipend.  But, retirees are now learning it may be several months before the stipend is made available to them. 

Columbus Fire Chief Kevin O’Connor tells Colleen Marshall the retirees are “going to have to pay 100% out of pocket until they set up the exchange to reimburse you.”

O’Connor has been very critical of the transition in the health coverage system, which he says has been confusing and too costly.  Now, he predicts it could take as long as four months for the stipend to be made available.

“And that’s something that as a pensioner nobody was prepared for.  The didn’t tell you up front that ‘Hey, come this date you are going to have four months of health care in the bank because we’re not going to pay for it. Oh, we’ll pay you eventually,'” said O’Connor.

Colleen is still waiting for the Pension Fund to provide details on when the stipend will be made available.  Until then, retirees will be responsible for the entire cost of their monthly health insurance premiums.  

In an interview last month, Pension Board CEO John Gallager said the health care fund was headed toward depletion because of the “tug of war” in Washington over the Affordable Care Act.  “This tug of war, unfortunately, has created distortion I think in the marketplace between what people need, what people can afford, and what can be offered.”