Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Minnesota State Highway Patrol and Continued Healthcare Coverage Under Minn.Stat. Sec. 299A.465

In July 2008, Minnesota Statute Sec. 299A.465, which provides continued healthcare insurance coverage for Minnesota firefighters or police officers who are disabled in the line of duty, was revised to streamline the process for procuring this benefit.

Under the old law, a disabled police officer or firefighter had to apply to a Panel for a determination of whether the firefighter’s or officer’s professional duties and responsibilities put the officer or firefighter at risk for the type of injury or illness actually sustained. Unfortunately, the Panel frequently erroneously denied benefits to applicants.

Under the new law, the Panel has been eliminated. Now, an individual who has been approved for PERA (Public Employees Retirement Association) duty disability benefits is supposed to be automatically approved for Continued Health Insurance Coverage. Members of local relief associations, such as the Minneapolis Firefighters Relief Association (MFRA) who are approved for a duty disability pension are directed to apply for a determination by the Executive Director of PERA for a determination as to their eligibility for continued health insurance coverage under Minnesota Statute §299A.465.

Almost as soon as the changes to the law went into effect, however, there were problems. We currently represent a gentleman who was a Minnesota State Highway Patrol Officer. As the result of an in-the-line-of-duty injury, he is unable to return to his job as a State Trooper. He was approved for a duty disability pension by the Minnesota State Retirement System (MSRS), but when he inquired about continued health insurance coverage under Minn. Stat. §299A.465, he was told that he was not eligible for this benefit. Unfortunately, the new version of the law does not specifically address members of MSRS, which includes Minnesota State Troopers, and it is apparently the position of the State of Minnesota that State Troopers are no longer entitled to this benefit.

We have commenced litigation on behalf of our client to obtain continued healthcare insurance coverage under Minn. Stat. Section 299A.465. Prior to the change in the law, Minnesota State Troopers were eligible for this benefit. Moreover, we feel that the legislature clearly did not intend to exclude the State Patrol from entitlement to a benefit that is available to all other police officers in the State of Minnesota.

If you are a Minnesota State Trooper who has been approved for MSRS duty disability benefits, but you have not received continued health care insurance under Minnesota Statute §299A.465, call us at 877-746-5680 or click here to email us here for a free consultation. Note that we provide services in conjunction with continued health care coverage on an hourly basis rather than on a contingency basis.

UPDATE: The Minnesota legislature has amended Minnesota Statute §299A.465 to specifically include Minnesota State Troopers. We recently obtained a settlement on behalf of a disabled Minnesota State Trooper who was improperly denied healthcare continuation coverage under the old version of the statute. The State agreed to reinstate his health insurance coverage and to reimburse him for the extra out-of-pocket expenses he incurred as a result of the State's refusal to continue his insurance.

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