YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Congressman Tim Ryan was in town for a roundtable discussion about the possibility of police, firefighters and other first responders being eligible for Medicare at an earlier age of 50.
For nearly 31 years, Michael Taylor has been a firefighter in Steubenville. Now, he’s president of the Ohio Association of Professional Fire Fighters (OAPFF).
“We were at a crisis stage with our health care and our pensions,” Taylor said.
Taylor welcomed the opportunity to have a meeting with Ryan.
Right now, Medicare enrollment is usually reserved for Americans aged 65 or older.
Ryan is proposing for these first responders to be able to enroll into Medicare early, at the age of 50.
“I think the Medicare at 50 is certainly something that would be immensely helpful to our members. We have about 8,000 retirees right now between the ages of 56 and 65 who are paying two-thirds or more of their pensions towards health care costs,” Taylor said.
According to Ryan, if this early age Medicare enrollment for first responders is passed, it could be expanded to cover teachers, public employees and eventually the general public.
“We want to have broader coverage. We want to allow every citizen over the age of 50, I think, should be able to buy-in. But rallying the police and fire, the first responders to talk about that first step and try to get other members of Congress to do this around the country. To make this an issue is important to me and it’s important to a lot of these people who are serving our communities every single day,” Ryan said.
Ryan said he was surprised to learn how many people were not applying for jobs in the fire or police force for fear of not having long term security that was once guaranteed.
“These are tough jobs, these are dangerous jobs. People are working a lot and they did it because they knew, at the end, they would have good health care, they would have a good, solid retirement. That’s not the case anymore, so it’s becoming very difficult. We see it with teachers and other people in public life. So, this is a national problem that I think we should solve with this very bold first step,” Ryan said.