Representative Malinowski Testifies in Support of his Bill to Expand Access to Medicare for Retired First Responders

December 10, 2019
Press Release

(Washington, DC) Today, Representative Tom Malinowski testified before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health in support of his Expanding Health Care Options for Early Retirees Act. Watch the testimony here.

“I'm here to talk about a bill that I also hope that we can find common ground on.

My bill, the Expanding Health Care Options for Early Retirees Act, would allow retired first responders—firefighters, police officers, EMTs—to buy into Medicare beginning at age 50.

Due in part to the physically demanding nature of their work, first responders often retire earlier than other workers, and can experience gaps in coverage until they become eligible for Medicare. This legislation would close that gap.

Coverage under this bill would be identical to the coverage provided under the existing Medicare program. And retirees would be eligible for tax credits, subsidies, and tax-advantaged contributions from their former employer or pension plan. Further, this bill specifically requires that it be implemented in a way that will not harm the existing Medicare program, beneficiaries, or trust fund.

We're grateful to have the support of the International Association of Firefighters, the Fraternal Order of Police, the National Association of Police Organizations, the National Sheriffs Association, the National Troopers Coalition, the International Union of Police Associations, the National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems, and AFSCME, among other organizations. Many of their representatives are with us today.

And since introducing the bill in September, my office has received dozens of phone calls, and letters, and messages from people from all across the United States describing how it would help them or a family member.

A person from Wilson County, Tennessee wrote to us: ‘This is such a needed law. More and more agencies are washing their hands of insuring first responders when they retire. It is not a young person's job, and when we retire we are damaged physically and emotionally and need the health care that eats up most of our pension.’

A paramedic from Florida wrote: ‘I am 53 and can retire in 2 years. Healthcare has been my major concern after my retirement. I pray for all of you working on this proposed bill.’

A firefighter paramedic from Oregon wrote: ‘I was born to be a firefighter in the community I was born and raised in. You naturally never think about your body wearing out. I have had several Toradol and steroid shots in both my elbows, shoulders and neck over my career- so I can be at work answering my community’s calls. It would be so helpful being eligible for Medicare Benefits when I retire.’

A newspaper in Texas quoted the head of Abilene's Police Officers' Association saying the bill would ‘allow us to retire at a good age and be able to afford healthcare. This affords us the opportunity to retire earlier, spend more time with our families, and enjoy life.’

This is why we are here today — examining how to improve our health care system so that Americans can spend more time with our families and enjoy our lives, so that we can choose a profession we love and to change it when we please, without the crushing, existential anxiety that comes from being uninsured or underinsured; without the fear that an accident or illness could lead to bankruptcy.

I believe that everyone who wants Medicare—teachers, caregivers, coal miners, farmers, service workers, everyone—should be able to live with the dignity and security that the program provides. But as we debate how to free every American of the anxiety of dealing with the current health care system, let us at least do something to free the few, the dedicated and brave few who choose to risk their health and their lives to protect us.

Thank you so very much. I yield back.”

The bill has been endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), International Association of Firefighters (IAFF), National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO), National Sheriffs Association (NSA), National Troopers Coalition (NTC), International Union of Police Associations (IUPA), National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems (NCPERS), Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey, New Jersey Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association, Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund, Louisiana Association of Chiefs of Police, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), California Professional Firefighters, and the California Peace Officers' Association.