9/11 retirees struggling to get health care in Southwest Florida

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Bill McMahon is a retired NYPD officer who created a Facebook Group for 9/11 first responders who are having trouble finding medical providers. (CREDIT: WINK News)

Brave men and women worked hard to save lives during the September, 11th terror attacks.

But now, years later and retired living in Southwest Florida, they are having a hard time getting the health care they need.

“I was at 9/11 as most of my friends and colleagues,” said Bill McMahon, a retired New York Police Department sergeant who has been living in Southwest Florida for 10 years. “They said the air was safe, obviously it wasn’t.”

McMahon said there are about 700 NYPD retirees in Southwest Florida who need medical care, but some health care providers, including Lee Health, don’t take their health insurance.

“There’s doctors everywhere down here. And we just drive by and we can’t go in,” McMahon said.

That’s the situation Andrea DiNella is in. She retired from the New York Police Department.

“I was told after serving for 25 years, I would have health care for the rest of my life,” DiNella said.

Others like Eric Bergstrom, who retired from the NYPD, are in dire need.

“I developed, unfortunately, cancer from 9/11. Prostate cancer,” Bergstrom said.

A prominent cancer center in Tampa didn’t take Bergstrom’s health insurance so for treatments, he had to drive to New York’s Sloan Kettering Memorial Hospital for care, Bergstrom said.

His wife, Theresa Bergstrom, also retired from the NYPD. In her case, a Punta Gorda neurologist canceled an appointment the night before.

“We all were walking dead. And now we have no health care,” she said.

Their provider is Emblem Health an insurance company based in New York City. Many retirees say they chose Emblem Health Insurance because it was the more affordable retirement package.

When they retired in Florida Emblem Insurance was accepted, but those contracts have since run out.

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