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Cops, firefighters in Ohio shift to new retiree health plan next week

Starting next week, retired police and firefighters will shift to a new retiree health care plan through the Ohio Police Fire Pension Fund.

Instead of getting a coverage through the OPF self-insured plan, retirees will be allotted a stipend for purchasing their own policies through a health exchange. The retirement system contracted with Aon to assist retirees in selecting coverage.

OPF has been communicating with retirees about the upcoming changes for more than six months.

“As expected there have been retirees who are not happy with the transition. Most all Medicare retirees — 2/3 of our retiree population — are satisfied with the transition and are actually saving on average $1,100 per year with the new plan,” said OPF spokesman Dave Graham. “The pre-Medicare group was generally not happy with the amount of plan choices, but that is dependent on the health care market, which we have no control over.”

The stipend amounts vary, based on age and years of service. The changes apply to current and future retirees — 58,000 people.

Related: Retiree health care cuts looming for cops and firefighters in Ohio

Lawmakers revamped the public pension funds in 2012 and emphasized the importance of preserving the pension benefits, which are mandated by law. Health care coverage is not required, though OPF has provided coverage since 1974.

Police and firefighters often retire in their early 50s – or even earlier if they’re disabled. Currently, OPF covers 75 percent of premium costs for its retirees and 25 percent of the costs for their spouses.

OPF has $15.7 billion invested for the benefit of 58,000 police, firefighters, retirees and beneficiaries.

Without the health care changes, money for coverage would have dried up within 10 years. The changes are expected to stretch the health care fund to last for the next 15 years.

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