COLUMBUS, OH (WCMH) - Drastic health care changes are on the way for retired police officers and firefighters all over the state of Ohio, and a deadline is looming that they might not even know about.
The Police and Fire Pension Fund is eliminating its health insurance coverage for retired first responders. Instead, retirees who are not old enough to qualify for Medicare will be given a stipend to help pay for insurance on the private market. But first, they have to go through a complicated sign-up process and the deadline is midnight this Saturday.
“From what I am hearing, there are thousands of retirees who haven’t been contacted,” Columbus Fire Chief Kevin O’Connor said.
Most concerning for many retirees is that the stipend has to be used through a managed platform company called Aon, with few choices in doctors or hospitals. In Franklin County, for example, Nationwide Children's Hospital and the James Cancer hospital are not covered.
"Any firefighter in Franklin County who is retired is not covered at either of those institutions at any level, not at higher deductible, not at a 50/50 percent at a zero percent because they are not in-network. That's wrong," said O'Connor.
NBC4's Colleen Marshall asked Ohio Police and Fire Pension Executive Director John Gallagher about the changes and the restrictions of the plan.
"Yeah, there is probably some truth in that sentiment. We did the best we could to analyze the market and set that stipend at a level that would satisfy those costs to where they were before," said Gallagher. "Our health care trust was facing depletion in less than 10 years and we had to take some drastic action."
Gallagher blamed the continuing struggle in Washington over the Affordable Care Act. He says the pension board must keep the pension solvent, and they are doing their best for health care.