COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Retired Ohio police and firefighters say they are still struggling to get answers and help from the company that is supposed to guide them through their health care transition process. 

The Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund ended health insurance coverage for pre-Medicare retirees as of the first of the year.  They replaced it with the promise of a monthly stipend, that is supposed to defray the cost of private insurance. 

But, the retirees must buy their new private insurance through an online brokerage platform known as AON, and they tell us that’s been a problem.   

Mindy Foust, the wife of a retired firefighter, tells us AON representatives met with retirees last summer, and made big promises. 

“The AON rep said to us ‘there are a hundred different plans out there, all compatible with the United Health Care you have now.’ Foust told Colleen Marshall.  “They said ‘you are going to be able to purchase the plan best for you.’ “

But, Foust and other retirees tell Colleen when the plans were finally offered in early November they were limited and expensive.  Foust and her husband live in Madison County, where only one plan is available and it does not cover their doctors or local hospital. 

Retired police officer, Mark Thomas, says retirees were not consulted and their interests are not being represented.  “They just kind of crammed this down our throat. They didn’t have any retirees on the board looking at these different options, so we had no buy in.”

But, Colleen also spoke with a representative of the OP&F, David Graham, who says the pension fund had no choice but to switch the health care system from a group plan to a stipend system, because of challenges in the health care marketplace.  Graham says the pension board was never required to provide health insurance, but did so voluntarily beginning in 1974.

“It was just nickels to provide. But, since 1974 health care has blossomed into a national crisis.  We’ve managed that as best we can.  We provided a health care plan for as long as possible, it’s just not manageable right now to provide that group plan,”  said Graham.