Ohio’s retired police and firefighters tell us their problems, and their debt, are mounting as they continue to demand changes in their health care benefits. 

The Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund Board eliminated group health care coverage for retirees, claiming the system was headed toward eventual depletion.  The insurance plan was replaced with a stipend system that provides a monthly payment for retirees to purchase individual insurance from the marketplace.

But, to qualify for the stipend, retirees must purchase insurance through an online platform called AON.  Retirees under 65 – who do not qualify for Medicare – tell us the AON packages are limited, expensive, and for some retirees, the stipend is not being delivered.  Additionally,  some Ohio counties have no plans available at all.  In Central Ohio, for example, retirees report many doctors don’t accept their new plans and major hospitals, including the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, the James Cancer Hospital and Nationwide Children’s Hospital, are not covered. 

Retirees are also reporting drastic increases in the cost of prescription medicine.  One retiree told our Colleen Marshall that the price of his insulin went from $50 a month to more than $800.  At a recent meeting of the board, retirees warned: “people are going to die because of this plan and you guys all put that in motion.”  Retired Cincinnati Assistant Police Chief Cindy Combs went on to say “there are people going without their insulin and there are people who were mid-chemo treatment for cancer” who could lose their lives because of the insurance change.  Retirees told the board their members are choosing between food and medicine, between paying their mortgage and paying for health care. 

Although board members declined to answer any questions during the meeting, they did supply answers on their website.  And a board spokesman, David Graham, told Colleen Marshall he believes “the Aon process is working and we will continue to make it better as much as we can.” 

Our reports on the first responders will air each day this week on NBC4 at 5:00 and 11:00.