I.A.F.F officials push for Medicare access at age 50 for retirees

Local News

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU)-A bill making its way through Congress would give public safety workers the option to receive Medicare benefits, at the age of 50.

As much as 40% of a first responder’s pension can go toward health care premiums. That’s why firefighters say many retirees take other jobs, after retirement, to help cover that cost.

“This bill would be very important, especially for these people because cancer came from the job,” said Tim Kacena, Iowa state representative, and retired Sioux City firefighter.

Kacena spent 27 years on the force.

“We need a public option. We need something to make it more affordable for the men and women who put their lives on the line their whole career,” said Kacena.

Sioux City first responders, like Leonard Kraker, have the option to stay on the city’s insurance plan after retirement. However, Kraker says a lot of that pension money goes to pay the premiums.

“To have our members continue to work ’till 65 just so they can have affordable health care lessens the amount of time they have to enjoy what they have earned over the course of their career,” said Kraker.

The mental and physical challenges of the job make it difficult for many men and women to work past the age of 50. This bill would give first responders an affordable option before reaching the age of 65.

“This bill they’re talking about now, it would allow us to get on medicare and it would literally save someone like myself probably $1,200-$1,500 in premiums,” said Chuck Hirsch, a retired Sioux City firefighter.

Retired first responders like Hirsch are pushing for the bill so that others are not left without affordable healthcare.

“It may not benefit me a whole lot because I’ll be Medicare age in a few years, but for someone who wants to retire today or next year, it could save them premiums for ten years. It’s a big deal,” said Hirsch.

The bill is still in the House of Representatives. However, Kacena says if the bill doesn’t pass at the federal level, he’ll introduce a similar bill at the state level.

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