The Hall County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution Thursday to have the county cover the employee health insurance premiums for 36 months for dependents in the event of an employee dying in the line of duty.
"In light of the recent tragedy with Deputy (Nicolas Blane) Dixon, the Board of Commissioners felt compelled to pursue the resolution that will be voted on,” Hall County human resources director Bill Moats said ahead of the vote July 25.
Dixon was fatally shot July 7 in an exchange of gunfire in Gainesville after pulling over a car and engaging in a foot pursuit with four suspects. Police have said the car was stolen, and a pawn shop burglary in which a large number of firearms were stolen is connected.
Under federal guidelines, the county is legally obligated to provide coverage to county employees’ dependents for 36 months if the employee dies in the line of duty under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, commonly known as COBRA.
If the employee quit, the continuation of coverage would be for a maximum of 18 months.
“COBRA generally requires that group health plans sponsored by employers with 20 or more employees in the prior year offer employees and their families the opportunity for a temporary extension of health coverage (called continuation coverage) in certain instances where coverage under the plan would otherwise end,” according to the Department of Labor’s website.
The resolution declares “that when a Hall County full-time, insured employee dies in the line of duty, the Board of Commissioners shall pay the 36-month COBRA premium payments for the surviving dependent(s) health and welfare benefit plan.”
“In the case of this resolution, the county is picking up the employee’s part of the premium, so basically (the dependents) are not having to pay anything for their health insurance for the 36 months they would have been covered under COBRA,” Moats said.
The cost will be $21,400 for the 36 months.
“COBRA insurance coverage is expensive, and requiring the dependents of any county employee who dies or is killed in the line of duty to immediately commence payment of COBRA insurance premiums is oppressive and burdensome on those families that are otherwise grieving and oftentimes financially unable to do so,” according to draft of the resolution.”... The Board believes that there exists compelling reasons for Hall County to fund COBRA payments for 36 months to such dependents; and that payment of such will provide objective value to the county and its work force in the form of enhanced job security, morale, loyalty and longevity in employment.”
Reporter Megan Reed contributed to this report.