New post-employment program helps pay for medical coverage for South Bend firefighters

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The Public Safety Board approved Resolution 01-2022, adopting a new post-employment health care plan for retired firefighters.

“It’s a big plus for us,” said local 362 representative Christian Rose.

Some retired firefighters are not old enough to qualify for Medicare, and so in 1996 a program was put in place to continue providing medical coverage, but only after former firefighters had paid a monthly premium of about $700 each.

“If we were to go to the exchange, or whatever, and get health insurance, it would be way more than that seven hundred dollars a month,” Rose said. “But it’s still a pretty significant number when you look at moving from what we’re currently doing to what we’re earning in retirement.

And firefighters need that coverage because many can develop health problems from exposure to smoke, chemicals, and other hazards on the job.

“We have high health care costs,” Rose said. “We have a high risk of cancer, respiratory disease and also heart disease, higher than the rest of the population.”

This new post-employment health care plan, or PEP, would make it easier for retired firefighters to pay for their coverage.

Going forward, the city will deposit $120 each year into an account for each sworn South Bend firefighter — and those funds can be used to help pay for health insurance coverage for their retirement.

And these firefighters will have other opportunities to help bolster these funds while in the department.

Rose said: “If you reach the end of the year and you have some sick time left, it gives you the option to put some of it in – they’ll convert it to cash – and then put it in that account. PEP.”

The same goes for retiring firefighters, who can convert their remaining leave and leave into cash that can be paid into the account – and the money is tax-free.

Rose hopes the PEP program will help retired firefighters who risk their lives for a long time.

“I hope it’s something that continues,” he said.

Because the PEP was approved as part of the firefighters’ union’s last contract negotiation with the department, it has already been in effect since this month.

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