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Phillips Introduces Bill to Expand First Responders’ Access to Health Care Coverage

During Federal Open Season for healthcare benefits, Rep. Phillips introduced legislation to bridge a crucial gap in coverage for first responders

WASHINGTON, DC – After hearing from police, fire, and EMS professionals in Minnesota, Representative Dean Phillips (MN-03) introduced HR 6030 the Expanding Health Care Options for First Responders Act, a bicameral bill that fills a gap in coverage for retired first responders wishing to opt into Medicare starting at the age of 50. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced companion legislation in the Senate. 

“During my conversations with police officers, firefighters, and EMS workers in Minnesota, I learned that they are often forced to retire early because of the risks they take on to keep us safe,” said Phillips. “It’s inexcusable those who retire before 65 are forced to wait years before they can access affordable care through Medicare. It’s time to take better care of those who take care of us and fight a barrier to recruitment and retention at the same time.” 

First responders are likely to retire earlier than the average worker because of the risks, wear, and tear of their jobs. However, retirees must wait until the age of 65 to be eligible for Medicare. The Expanding Health Care Options for First Responders Act will fill the gap between the ages of 50 to 64 for eligible first responders, adding years of affordable, comprehensive health insurance and peace of mind to their lives. The coverage would be identical to existing Medicare programs. The legislation prevents added coverage from negatively affecting existing Medicare services. 

“The majority of law enforcement/first responders separate from employment due to retirement or disability well before the current Medicare enrollment age; creating a healthcare burden during the gap between separation from employment and current Medicare enrollment age,” said Adam Torgeson of the Minnesota State Association of Narcotics Investigators. “This healthcare burden event forces first responders to work later into life than is planned or safe to treating healthcare. This act would greatly ease the burden and provide healthcare options for first responders upon separating from employment.” 

The Expanding Health Care Options for First Responders Act is endorsed by the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), National Sheriffs’ Association, National Troopers Coalition, Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO), International Union of Police Associations, National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems, the Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund, and the Minnesota State Association of Narcotics Investigators. Original co-sponsors in the House are Reps. Julia Brownley (D-CA), Sean Casten (D-IL), Lois Frankel (D-FL), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Joe Neguse (D-CO), Darren Soto (D-FL), Dina Titus (D-NV), and Marc Veasey (D-TX) and Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and John Fetterman (D-PA) in the Senate.