City discusses new death benefit for fallen officers

L to R: Cedar City Fire Chief Mike Phillips and Police Chief Darin Adams discuss the new death benefit legislation with the Cedar City Council Wednesday, Cedar City, Utah, Jan. 4, 2017 | Photo by Tracie Sullivan, St. George / Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY – Cedar City families of police officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty are now eligible to receive continued health insurance under a bill passed in the 2015 Legislature.

The law, HB 288 Line-of-Duty Death Benefits for Peace Officers and Firefighters, is a new statewide death benefit requiring the employer to provide continued health insurance coverage for surviving spouses and children, at no cost, in the event of a covered line of duty death. Spouses are covered until they remarry or become eligible for Medicare, and children are covered to age 26.

Cedar City Police Chief Darin Adams and Fire Chief Mike Phillips presented information about the benefit to the Cedar City Council during a weekly meeting Wednesday night.

Under the legislation, Phillips explained, employers can opt to participate in a state-created trust fund for an annual payment of $95 per employee. For Cedar City, the total yearly cost for the fire department would come to $1,140 while the police department would be around $3,420.

The trust fund then requires employers to cover the affected families’ health insurance premiums for the first 24 months. The trust fund would then take over and pay the remaining years.

If employers choose not to participate in the trust fund, they are responsible for paying the families’ health insurance in its entirety, which both Phillips and Adams agreed could get very costly.

According to the written information provided by Adams and Phillips to the Council, the cost of health insurance for today’s family is approximately $12,943 a year plus an annual $1,200 for a health savings contribution.

“It’s really a no-brainer,” Phillips said. “I look at it like insurance. If the city makes the annual payment then if something happens the state covers those health insurance costs after 24 months. Otherwise, we’re responsible for that for the rest of those years and that could cost the city half a million dollars or more, depending on inflation. And that’s one employee. If there is an incident where we lose more than one person on the job then it could really get into some serious money.”

Councilman Fred Rowley said he felt the Council’s choice in whether to participate in the trust fund was easy.

“It will save the city money in the long run,” Rowley said. “I don’t think it’s even something that’s up for debate. Why would we do anything else but pay the annual payment?”

Council members will formally vote on their decision during next week’s meeting held Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at the Cedar City Council Chambers at 10 N. Main Street.

Email: tsullivan@stgnews.com

Twitter: @tracie_sullivan

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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2 Comments

  • .... January 5, 2017 at 12:33 am

    This is absolutely fantastic news and I’m sure this will result in a positive reaction from the community and I would like to thank all those involved in making this possible.

    • comments January 5, 2017 at 12:17 pm

      If they flushed you down the toilet I’m sure this will result in a positive reaction from the community and I would like to thank all those involved in making this possible.

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