Do you think the first responders who came to our aid when Hurricane Sandy hit should have health protection if they get sick or injured taking care of us?
Well, they're going to get it, thanks to some on line activism; a Change.org petition posted by Dena Patrick of Wishadoo!, the "Craigslist of Compassion" which connects people in need with people who want to help through a Wishlist posted there. This info comes via ThinkProgress.
Patrick's petition picked up 112,000 signatures in days. And yesterday, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) responded, reversing a longstanding policy, and finally giving "certain employees who work on intermittent schedules" - like those who came for Sandy - their permanent enrollment in a Federal Employee Health Benefits plan. It applies to thousands of disaster relief workers whose schedules - responding to crises as needed - are part-time or intermittent.
About 70% of the FEMA workforce serves on a part-time basis through the Reservist Program, and they didn't qualify for employer-based health coverage. That's despite the dangerous nature of what they do for us, and the long hours of physical work, in sometimes unstable and miserable conditions.
We saw so many of the people who rushed in after the World Trade Center collapse later get sick and struggle to cover their health expenses. That should never happen again. I like that people are looking out for the people who show up to help us out. And I like that OPM, an independent agency of the federal government, can be informed and persuaded by something like an online petition. It's good news.