Rule changes allow temporary federal firefighters access to health insurance | Health
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announced today a final regulation that would extend, immediately, eligibility for health insurance coverage to temporary firefighters and fire protection personnel.
This comes after a directive from President Obama to extend eligibility coverage under the Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB) to those personnel fighting the wildfires across the U.S. This new regulation insures that temporary federal firefighters and their families have access to the same health insurance that is afforded to full time federal employees.
“Issuing this interim final regulation meets President Obama’s direction to ensure that the brave men and women who compose our nation's federal firefighter ranks, and who are currently fighting dangerous wildfires in states across the country, are eligible for the same health insurance available to other federal employees, retirees and their families,” said OPM Director John Berry.
OPM has been working closely with the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of the Interior (DOI), both agencies supply personnel to fight the wildfires across the nation, to make sure that the thousands of temporary firefighters (federal) and their families have access to the coverage that they are entitled to.
Because members of federal firefighting crews are ‘seasonal’ they are considered temporary employees and under previous regulations were not eligible for health insurance coverage under the FEHB program. The FEHB is who provides health insurance to other federal employees, retirees and their families. Under these new rules the same benefits will now apply to the temporary firefighters and their families.
This new option will afford members of the federal firefighting crews a chance to purchase FEHB coverage for themselves and their families, giving them coverage while they fight the wildfires, and then give them the option to continue the health care coverage (at their own expense) once they return home from fighting the fires.
“Ever since I served as mayor of Mount Pleasant, Iowa, I’ve had a deep respect for our firefighters – and I know that when a federal firefighter is heading out to the line to defend Americans’ lives and property from dangerous, destructive wildfire, it doesn’t matter whether they’re a “temporary” firefighter or not. Today’s announcement means that every one of our federal firefighters will have the health coverage he or she deserves – and that’s something we can be proud of,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
“The men and women who join the battle against devastating wildfires across the nation each summer take on the same risks as their full-time colleagues, and they deserve the same health benefits for their courageous work,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. “The President asked us to work together to close this gap on behalf of federal firefighters and their families who make sacrifices to protect the lives and property of all Americans.”
There will be a 60 day public comment period, to provide additional feedback on these new regulations. OPM has a plan to issue additional guidance on enrollment and administration of this regulation to agencies through the Chief Human Capital Officers Council and to agency Benefits Officers through a Benefits Administration Letter. OPM is also notifying FEHB insurance carriers about the change to expedite access to health care under their health plan enrollment. Each agency then is responsible for outreach, education, and enrollment processing of eligible employees.
For more information about this new regulation please click on the following link: http://www.ofr.gov/OFRUpload/OFRData/2012-17623_PI.pdf
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