New legislation introduced to allow retired first responders to buy into Medicare

September 26, 2019
Press Release

(Washington, DC) Today, Representative Tom Malinowski (NJ-7) introduced the Expanding Health Care Options for Early Retirees Act, a bill to allow retired first responders—including police officers, firefighters, and EMTs—to buy into Medicare beginning at age 50. He was joined by lead original cosponsor Representative Harley Rouda (CA-48). Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio introduced the companion measure in the Senate.

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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. And 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.

The bill has been endorsed by the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF), the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO), the National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems (NCPERS), the New Jersey Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association, and the Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey, among other organizations. Representative Malinowski is a member of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus and the Congressional Law Enforcement Caucus.

“First responders always come when we need them,” said Representative Malinowski. “This bill would ensure that when they retire, they have access to quality and reliable health coverage they have earned and deserve.”

"Our nation's failure to provide first responders with affordable health insurance is unacceptable. I've spoken with firefighters, police officers, and EMTs across Orange County who are paying sky-high premiums with limited retirement benefits. I'm proud to introduce this common-sense and long overdue solution, along with Senator Brown and Rep. Malinowski, which will directly impact the lives of our nation's bravest," said Representative Rouda.

“The International Association of Firefighters supports the Expanding Health Care Options for Early Retirees Act. Firefighters and other public safety workers put their health and safety at risk protecting their communities. This act will allow firefighters the ability to buy into Medicare at age 50 so they can get the reliable, quality healthcare they need as a result of service to their communities,” said Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Firefighters.

“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.

“Firefighters in New Jersey and throughout the country put their lives on the line every day,” said Dominick Marino, President of the Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey. “This line of work is physically demanding and it can take a serious toll on workers’ health. The Expanding Health Care Options for Early Retirees Act will help to ease the transition between work and retirement for firefighters and other first responders, and will offer the security that comes with having access to quality coverage upon retirement.”

“Firefighters and other first responders serve selflessly to protect our communities. They are our neighbors and our friends who, every day, go beyond the call of duty to keep us safe. The Expanding Health Care Options for Early Retirees Act will ensure that these men and women who put themselves in harm’s way will have access to quality and affordable health insurance coverage upon retiring,” said Eddie Donnelly, President of the New Jersey Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association


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