Death of Cinnaminson firefighter spurs new legislation

In mid-November of 2014, Cinnaminson firefighter Chris Hunter passed away just hours after he finished his last shift. The cause of death was attributed to a cardiac event. Because Lt. Hunter did not die in the line of duty medical coverage for his family was cancelled abruptly.

Under current law, the employee’s family medical coverage ends upon death because the employment was terminated. A bill (A-4062) introduced by Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D-Mount Laurel) was drafted to help ensure medical coverage is not cancelled quickly for family members of deceased first responders.

“Under the bill, first responders’ employers would have to negotiate a benefit that would provide a six-month continuation of post-death coverage to the surviving spouse and the dependent kids,” Singleton said.

Singleton said the family members of first responders have to worry every day if their loved one will make it home safely and they should not also have to worry about losing medical coverage immediately if their loved one passes away, as was the case with Lt. Hunter.

“If his death had been an ‘in the line of duty’ death health insurance coverage for the spouse or dependents would continue until the spouse remarried or the children is 26 years of age,” Singleton said.

To help make sure surviving family members aren’t charged an excessive premium for the six-month benefits extension, Singleton’s legislation would require the employer to negotiate an extended coverage provision with the medical insurance carrier.

“Unfortunately, we’re not going to be able to fix it retroactively to effect and help Lt. Hunter’s family, but it is our hope that moving forward that no other family will be put in this sort of predicament,” Singleton said.

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