Seasonal firefighters now eligible for health insurance

Myrtle Fire burnout Song Dog Rd
Myrtle Fire burnout Song Dog Rd
Firefighters in Cold Springs Canyon on the Myrtle fire, July 22, 2012. Photo by Bill Gabbert

Thanks to the petition that John Lauer, a firefighter on the Tatanka Hotshot crew started, seasonal firefighters now have the opportunity to purchase health insurance through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM)  published an interim final rule on July 19 that puts the new provision into effect immediately. This is a big friggin’ deal for firefighters, so congratulations, Mr. Lauer, for taking the first steps that made this happen.

Here is the pertinent text from the interim rule that was just published:

OPM is amending 5 CFR part 890 as follows:
Section 890.102 to be amended by adding paragraphs (h) and (i) to read as follows:
§ 890.102 Coverage.
* * * * *
(h) Notwithstanding paragraphs (c)(1) and (2) of this section, an employee who is in a position identified by OPM that provides emergency response services for wildland fire protection is eligible to be enrolled in a health benefits plan under this part.
(i) Notwithstanding paragraphs (c)(1) and (2) of this section, upon request by the employing agency, OPM may grant eligibility to employees performing similar types of emergency response services to enroll in a health benefits plan under this part.
[FR Doc. 2012-17623 Filed 07/17/2012 at 8:45 am; Publication Date: 07/19/2012]

In the text that accompanied the interim rule, the OPM wrote:

OPM is committed to making the process for signing up for FEHB coverage simple and streamlined so that the firefighters covered by this rule can secure their new benefits with minimal burden. We are working closely with the Departments of Agriculture and Interior to ensure firefighters are able to promptly enroll for FEHB coverage.

After President Obama visited the Waldo Canyon fire on June 29, he directed that federal agencies offer seasonal firefighters the opportunity to purchase health insurance.

I have to admit I was skeptical that it could happen this quickly and even initiated a poll (now closed) asking our readers if they thought it could be implemented in the month of July. Happily, I was wrong, along with 70 percent of the folks who participated in the poll. Here are the results:

Health Insurance poll results, firefighters
Thanks go out to Bill B.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.