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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Bills Would Define Catastrophic Injury in PSEBA

The Illinois Public Safety Employee Benefits Act provides that employers must pay the entire health insurance premium for public safety employees who suffer “catastrophic” injuries in the line of duty.  This benefit includes coverage for the employee’s spouse and dependent children as well.  This is a very costly benefit as it covers the injured employee and his or her spouse for life.  Dependent children are covered to the age of 25 if the child continues to be dependent for support or is a full time or part-time student and remains dependent for support. 
In the Krohe v. City of Bloomington case, the Illinois Supreme Court determined that the Illinois legislature failed to define “catastrophic injury.”  The Court held that a “catastrophically injured” firefighter is one who “due to injuries, had been forced to take a line-of-duty disability under 4-110 of the Illinois Pension Code.”  This definition does not appear to be consistent with the legislature’s original intent as it allows for employees who can no longer work as public safety employees but can still work at other jobs to obtain permanent PSEBA benefits. 
Two bills were recently introduced in the General Assembly to attempt to resolve this issue.  House Bill 2224 would define a “catastrophic injury” as “a grievous or serious injury or impairment of a nature that is sufficient to permanently preclude the injured employee from performing any gainful work." Senate Bill 1245 would define a "catastrophic injury" as one in which the “consequences of an injury that permanently prevent an individual from performing any gainful work.”  The enactment of either bill would be a substantial change as it would mean that a police officer or firefighter who could no longer perform the essential functions of their public safety position but can still be employed in some other capacity would not be entitled to PSEBA benefits.
PSEBA benefits are very costly and should be reserved for those who are truly in need of them.  A new definition of the term “catastrophic injury” would help to ensure that only those public safety employees who are truly in need of PSEBA benefits would receive them.
Post Authored by Bob McCabe, Ancel Glink


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