Bennet Introduces Legislation to Reduce Health Care Costs for Retired Police Officers, Firefighters

The Public Safety Officer Health Improvement Act Would A Establish Health Premium Tax Credit for Retired Public Safety Officers

Washington, D.C. – Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet introduced the Public Safety Officer Health Improvement Act to reduce the cost of health care for retired public safety officers who are not yet eligible for Medicare. This legislation would create a new tax credit of up to $4,800 for retired firefighters, law enforcement officers, and other eligible public safety officers.

“Our firefighters and law enforcement officers put their lives on the line every day to protect Colorado communities, especially in the face of wildfire severity across the West. When our communities are under threat, first responders step up at great personal risk,” said Bennet. “Public safety officers serve our communities for years in physically demanding jobs, and this tax credit will help reduce their health care costs before they are eligible for Medicare.”

“Firefighters have a physically demanding and dangerous job, and our members are often unable to work until the age of Medicare eligibility. When our careers end, we are often left with extremely high medical costs,” said Ed Kelly, General President of the International Association of Firefighters. “Senator Bennet’s Public Safety Officer Health Improvement Act would allow hundreds of thousands of Firefighters and other Public Safety Officers who have dutifully served our communities the ability to retire at an appropriate age without sacrificing our healthcare needs. These real-world problems require innovative solutions. We are thankful to Senator Bennet’s commitment to support Public Safety Officers who sacrificed daily for the communities they serve.”

“Healthcare is the number one cost a retired Public Safety Officer will have, and it can easily cost as much as a mortgage payment. Because of this, many fire fighters decide to stay on the job much longer than anticipated. Fire fighters are like everybody else, they can’t receive Medicare benefits until they are 65. Therefore, Senator Michael Bennet has stepped up to help fire fighters by introducing the Public Safety Officer Health Improvement Act which would allow fire fighters to make the decision to exit their noble profession in a dignified, responsible way. I fully support Senator Michael Bennet’s efforts to help fire fighters and encourage all Senators and Representatives to support his legislation,” said David Foster, President of Denver Fire Fighters, IAFF Local 858.

“Grand Junction Professional Firefighters Local 2808 fully supports Senator Michael Bennet and the Public Officers Safety Improvement Act. Grand Junction Firefighters have been looking for ways to combat increasing health costs for our retirees that are essentially forced out of a job at fifty five years of age due to decreased death and disability benefits,” said Clark Thompson, President of Grand Junction Professional Firefighters, Local 2808. “Firefighters and other Public Safety Officers (PSO’S) spend a career responding to emergencies that require us to be put in situations that are not only mentally and physically demanding but oftentimes dangerous. The stress that is placed on PSO’S can eventually lead to early retirement, even earlier than fifty five years of age. For these reasons we support the proposed legislation put forth by Senator Michael Bennet. This benefit would help countless Firefighters, Police officers and emergency communication specialists who have served their communities 24/7 365.”

“Because of skyrocketing healthcare costs post-retirement, firefighters often stay longer than they can physically perform the job at a level needed to be safe for them and those they attempt to rescue,” said Joey L. Gutierrez, President of Pueblo Fire Fighters IAFF Local 3. “No firefighter should have to try and stay on the job until 65, when they are Medicare eligible, bridging healthcare costs they cannot afford in retirement.”

Firefighters, law enforcement officers, and other public safety officers are often hired early in their lives and retire early due to the physical demands of their job. Many retire years before they are eligible for Medicare benefits, leaving them on the hook to pay high premiums. Roughly 75% of fire fighters will not receive Social Security and, depending on their work history, their pension benefit can be as low as $30,000 per year.

The Public Safety Officer Health Improvement Act would create a tax credit for eligible retired firefighters, law enforcement officers, chaplains, rescue squad members, ambulance crews, and emergency and disaster workers. The tax credit would be equal to the amount paid by a retired officer for a qualified health insurance premium, up to $4,800, and indexed to inflation. The bill would update the current $3,000 tax-free income distribution retired officers can elect to deduct from an eligible retirement plan to pay for qualified health insurance premiums and index the amount to inflation.

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