Retired Ohio first responders see health care cost increase

Posted at 5:15 PM, Jan 09, 2019

CINCINNATI — In 2012, Cindy Combs retired from the Cincinnati Police Department as assistant chief.

Now, almost seven years later, Combs is among 8,000 retired Ohio first responders who are not old enough for Medicare and dealing with big health care changes.

"Our pension system decided this year to take us away from a group plan and put us with a broker who has very questionable history," Combs said.

That's because of cuts in medical coverage from the Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund. In exchange, the organization said it has provided stipends to retirees. But some, like Combs, say that's not enough.

"The plans went went from a PPO to an HMO, so the coverage is much less," she said. "The premiums are higher. The deductibles are much higher. Prescription costs are incredibly higher. It could cost us, just myself, an additional $20,000 a year as compared to what I was paying."

In addition to higher costs, Combs said another problem has to do with fewer options to receive care.

"The only in-network hospital is Christ Hospital," she said. "Don't have anything against Christ Hospital, but Good Sam and University are your trauma hospitals."

This will also affect first responders who are currently working, like Mount Healthy Police Chief Vince Demasi, who worked with Combs in the past.

"For people, that have served their community for 25-30 years, to be kicked to the curb like that is unconscionable," he said. "I don't know how the people in Columbus sleep at night. This is a tragedy."

A spokesperson for the Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund said the changes has to be made, or its health care fund would've been exhausted within seven to nine years.

"It just became too expensive," fund communications director Daniel Graham said. "We have limited funding for health care. There is no dedicated funding stream for retiree health care."

Graham said 28,000 retired Ohio first responders in their system will be affected.

"Ninety percent of our Medicare-eligible people enrolled in the plan, and 70 percent of our people under 65 enrolled in a plan, which is above our projections," Graham said.