Reader Sharon Coldren asks about the financial and health status of V.I. Police Officer Colvin Georges, who was shot and gravely injured by gunfire in the line of duty May 26, and whether the information at a website raising money for Georges is accurate:
"Are the facts in here true about insurance only covering 4 months of care, workman's comp already maxed out, and no chance of full recovery. Is the VI government doing anything else? We need to know," Coldren wrote.
Georges was shot May 26 while approaching a suspect at the Contant Car Wash on St. Thomas. Police returned fire and the suspect, Gerald Jackson, was killed.
Another officer, Aaron Hodge, was injured less severely in the same incident. Hodge was released from the Schneider Regional Medical Center a few days after the incident.
The Source has independently confirmed Georges is gravely wounded and paralyzed from the neck down. Reached by phone Friday, Labor Commissioner Albert Bryan confirmed the Workers Compensation maximum under current law is $200,000 and that Georges has utilized all of it.
However, on Tuesday, the V.I. Senate unanimously voted to pass a bill increasing that workers compensation benefit. The measure, proposed by Government House and written by Labor Department personnel, was specially ordered onto the session agenda Tuesday, bypassing the usual committee process.
Sponsored by Sens. Carlton "Ital" Dowe, Alicia "Chucky" Hansen and Sammuel Sanes, the bill increases the maximum workers compensation benefit for police, corrections and fire service employees injured in the line of duty to $750,000, of which the first $250,000 must be paid by the Government Insurance Fund. After that, health care bills must go first to the primary insurance carrier, then to the Government Insurance Fund up to the maximum of $750,000. Once signed into law, the change is retroactive to May 1, so it would apply to Georges.
"We constructed it on behalf of the governor, who requested something that would accommodate not just police but all our Class III employees, because they go out there and put their lives on the line every day and it is only fair we should protect them as well," Bryan said.
While this increase will certainly help, health care in such situations is profoundly expensive and donations at the website (colvingeorges.org) would undoubtedly be of help and greatly appreciated.
"Remember, Cigna and most insurance companies only pay 80 percent and that 20 percent can add up very quickly," Bryan said Friday. "Even with the raise of the cap, it is going to take a lot of medical help and resources to bring Officer Georges to a place where he can sustain himself," Bryan said. He and other officials are holding several conference calls a week trying to address health care issues for Georges, according to Bryan.
The Source could not independently verify the specifics of Georges' medical bills and insurance limits. Cigna Insurance's 2011-2012 V.I. Government Comprehensive Medical Benefits Booklet, [V.I. Government Health Benefits Booklet] available at the V.I. Division of Personnel website, appears to indicate that there is no maximum lifetime hospitalization benefit for hospitalization or care. However, the amount of reimbursement for various elements of treatment are capped, with the patient responsible for the remainder, and fees above and beyond the insurance schedule can add up quickly.