CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Frustrations continue for retired Ohio police and firefighters. Cleveland 19 News has been investigating problems after a pension overhaul causing healthcare prices to skyrocket and many retired first responders footing expensive bills.
“It’s just been extremely frustrating," said retired Akron Police Officer Paul Bralek,
Bralek is one of about 8,000 Ohio police and firefighters living in pension peril.
“I’ve gone through 33 years. We expected healthcare," he said.
He’s under 65, which means he’s not old enough to qualify for Medicare. So his health insurance, as a retiree, is now through a company called Aon, based in England and it’s not cheap.
“It went from approx $600 a month to over $1700 a month," he said.
The dramatic increase was one he was hoping to cover partially with his stipend, but the problem is, he can’t get it.
”I’ve been trying to get in for weeks and weeks now. I check four or five times a day," he said. “Apparently, files aren’t uploading and there’s still a lot of glitches in the system that aren’t allowing me to get in and sign up for what’s called the ‘YSA’ or ‘Your Spending Account’ through the reimbursement account.”
Other Ohio retirees have also complained about glitches in Aon’s system. Akron FOP Benefits Manager, Michael Leslie, has been so overwhelmed with calls from retirees, he spoke to a group of them this week.
“The system that they’ve been dealing with for so many years is all changing overnight and they don’t understand it," Leslie said.
Aon’s website promises an easy and seamless sign-up process with videos showing you how to enroll. Ohio’s Police and Pension Fund reps said they chose Aon after interviewing multiple companies and found them “the most qualified.”
Retirees like Bralek disagree.
“It’s not like we didn’t have notice, but we didn’t think it would be this drastic of a change and we feel kind of put out,” he said.
In the meantime, he’s working other jobs to help make up the costs.
“Open my wallet and checkbook and that’s really all I can do” said Bralek.
The future for all retired Ohio first responders is unknown, but bleak.
“You’re going to risk your life as a police officer or firefighter for 25 to 30 years and at the end, what do you have? It’s scary times for our members right now, both active and retired,” said Leslie.
Cleveland 19 reached out to Aon for more information on why there are so many technical difficulties being reported by retirees and are waiting to hear back.