Law Enforcement Rallying Around Hester's Family
Within hours of hearing the family is losing its health insurance, local law enforcement agencies had already raised enough money to pay for four months of COBRA coverage.
Even as the community gets ready to bury Walton County Sheriff’s Deputy Lt. Darran Hester later today, his band of brothers in law enforcement is rallying around the family he left behind.
Hester was killed on his motorcycle by a suspected drunk driver Saturday and his wife, Jamie, sustained serious injuries in the same accident. With Hester no longer an employee of the county government, the family’s health insurance is set for cancellation at 9:30 a.m. Friday.
Since Hester's wife remains in a serious condition in Atlanta Medical Center, that news initially caused shock waves throughout the community.
“And if Jamie isn't well enough in 60 days - then what,” Amanda Peppers wrote on Patch’s Facebook page. “It's terrible that in the time of tragedy, the victims have to be burdened with how they will pay for insurance.”
But even as people were debating the rights and wrongs of the system, Hester’s family in law enforcement was doing what was necessary to take care of the problem – at least in the short term.
“I’m told from a very reliable source that the local law enforcement community, that’s the sheriff’s department, police departments and other departments in the surrounding communty, have already raised enough for the first four months of COBRA payments,” said Commissioner Chuck Bagley.
Karen Frasier, director of Human Resources for Walton County, confirmed that Hester’s insurance does cancel Friday, and that the survivor has 60 days under federal law to apply for COBRA insurance coverage. However, COBRA is a significantly higher premium than the family would have paid through Hester's county employment prior to his death. Frasier said this procedure is required under federal law and would be the same for any employee.
“His family has 60 days under federal law when they can elect COBRA, but they have to pay the premium as soon as they make that choice,” Frasier said, adding they are still covered during that 60 days.
Incidents such as this highlight continuing problems in the healthcare system. A surviving spouse would find him- or herself in much the same situation as Hester’s wife even with good health insurance prior to a death.
It is likely that an organization such as Heroes Helping Heroes, founded by Sgt. Mark Lusk of the Loganville Police Department, will pick up this case as it did when a similar motorcycle accident severely injured Snellville Police Officer Ray Gunter and his wife. Gunter lost his leg in the accident and was unable to resume work with the Snellville Police Department immediately following the accident.