The Expanding Health Care Options for Early Retirees Act, legislation permitting retired public safety workers to buy into Medicare at age 50, has been introduced in the Senate as S 2552 by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and in the House as HR 4527 by Representatives Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) and Harley Rouda (D-CA).

“When our members are faced with early retirement, they are also faced with the uncertainty of finding quality and affordable health insurance,” says General President Harold Schaitberger. “The Expanding Health Care Options for Early Retirees Act provides yet another tool to help address this very real problem.”

The legislation provides an affordable health care option for fire fighters and other public safety officers who retire before age 65 due to the physical and mental stresses of the job and who have few health insurance options once they leave the fire service.

Some retirees, if given the option, rely on an ever-shrinking, inadequate employer-provided stipend or may try to purchase coverage on the public or private marketplaces, both of which present real challenges to obtaining quality and reliable health care.

The Expanding Health Care Options for Early Retirees Act would provide an additional option for post-retirement health care, allowing public safety workers who are retired to buy into Medicare beginning at age 50. Public safety retirees will also be able to use pre-tax defined contribution plans to help purchase coverage under this legislation. The proposal will help to ease the transition between work and retirement for fire fighters and other first responders and will offer the security that comes with having access to quality coverage upon retirement.

Schaitberger says, “Fire fighters put their health and lives on the line to protect and serve their community every day. As a country, we owe it to them to acknowledge that sacrifice by providing them as many quality health care options possible.”