Yup. The people on the front line of disaster assistance for hurricane Sandy, trying their best to insure that aid gets to those in need, encountering dangerous conditions, and, in previous disaster efforts, working sixteen hour days for weeks on end, are not eligible to get Federal Health Insurance.
And unlike fireman battling blazes out West who recently got enough attention to force the hand of the administration to make them eligible, these FEMA employees have had no such luck. Even a change.org petition to that effect has garnered less than 6000 signatures at this writing.
"I've been through tornadoes I’ve been through ice storms where there are five inches of snow on the power lines and the power goes out," the FEMA employee says (she asked to remain anonymous, as she fears losing her job if identified. "I worked on Joplin debris for six months. I was exposed to asbestos there daily. There are a lot of hazards being on the ground."This is yet another absurdity of our health care system. Of course everyone should be eligible to have health insurance (scratch that, everyone should just have access to health care, period). Regardless, these courageous workers should qualify to enroll for federal health insurance programs if they so choose. Sign the petition, let's make a stink, and see if something can be done to redress this wrong.
FEMA has 9,981 disaster assistance employees, according to a Government Accountability Office report released this year. That same report estimated that the reservists make up about 57 percent of the agency's total workers. As temporary employees of the government, they do not qualify for health benefits.
All that being said, the Washington Post article I've linked to demonstrates again a paradox and one of the things I've been harping on for a couple of years now:
The FEMA employee I spoke with said she would leave her job if she could find something with equal pay and health benefits. She did look for a plan on the individual market, but due to a pre-existing condition, the cheapest option she found came with a $1,400 monthly premium and $12,000 deductible.This employee has a pre-existing condition. She is almost certainly eligible for the PCIP, the Federal Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, but apparently even people who work for the federal government are not aware of the program. Her premiums would almost certainly be less than half of $1400 per month, with a maximum of about a $6000 deductible. She may well be able to afford coverage for the next year through this program -- until 2014, when everyone will be eligible for insurance at fixed prices regardless of pre-existing conditions, and also eligible for subsidies depending on income.
Even if for some reason she isn't eligible, lots of people are! If you have a pre-existing condition and have been without insurance for six months, then you are almost certainly eligible. Or if you know someone in similar circumstances they are almost certainly eligible. Don't wait another year to get the treatment you need (assuming the President is re-elected) or die (assuming Romney is elected). Go to The PCIP site or direct people there.