Healthcare insurance coverage and the career cycle creates a big gap for firefighters. Most people expect the work cycle to end in their mid-60s. Around 65, Medicare and other supplemental coverage kick in, and the retired former employee is covered. There are other options that can provide coverage in the retirement years, but they can be expensive.
The gap for firefighters is that few line firefighters can work into their 60s. The body is just not built to work in this profession as we approach our mid-50s. This gap is what keeps many firefighters on the job — in many cases at the employee's peril.
So, how can we reduce this gap or eliminate it altogether?
The first step is to understand that there will come a time when this issue will affect the family and the individual. Planning is the key as well as understanding the options one can take to lessen the impact on this looming gap.
Before writing this article, I surveyed fire chiefs and friends in the fire service and found few departments provide health insurance coverage in retirement. The answer I got was, "You're on your own."
All firefighters have to plan for that day when they can no longer ride the rig, fight the fires and deal with all the stress. Consider these options/alternatives:
This issue of providing healthcare coverage is a problem for many people. No one knows for sure where we are headed.
Firefighters need to plan and prepare for that day. Good luck and stay healthy.
David Cain was deputy chief with the Boulder (Colo.) Fire Department for 34 years. Since his retirement in 2013, he has worked as a consultant for PSTrax.com, a cloud-based service that digitizes fire department apparatus and equipment checks. You can reach Chief Cain at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-972-9444.