County's insurance questioned

Feaga urges a review of policy for auxiliary police after coverage is insufficient for injured officer

December 07, 2005|By MELISSA HARRIS | MELISSA HARRIS,SUN REPORTER

A Howard County councilman is questioning whether the county has adequate insurance on its small auxiliary police force after a 21-year-old injured officer was left without coverage for the medical equipment he needed after leaving the hospital.

The volunteer police officer and firefighter, Pieter Lucas, was directing traffic around a crash at U.S. 40 and Pebble Beach Drive on Nov. 23when a Chevrolet Blazer hit him, crushing his legs between two cars and leaving him crumpled under the SUV's engine. Doctors amputated his lower left leg that night.

"I'm shocked and surprised the county didn't carry a heavier policy on the volunteers," said Charles C. Feaga, a western county Republican, who, with firefighters, obtained a free bed and wheelchair for Lucas from the Glenwood Lions Club. "I'm worried that it will not be enough for the rehabilitation and work doctors will have to do on the youngster."

Lucas, a college senior and River Hill High School graduate, was driven home from Maryland Shock Trauma Center in an ambulance Friday after a nine-day hospital stay. However, a family member said their insurer denied coverage for the hospital bed and wheelchair that Lucas needed at his home, saying that it was another insurer's responsibility.

"If the administration or I personally had known that the Lucas family was in need of a hospital bed or wheelchair, arrangements would have been made immediately," said Raquel Sanudo, the county's chief administrative officer. "Most important, we want to make sure Mr. Lucas' medical problems are taken of."

Over time, insurers for the county, the Lucas family and the driver of the Blazer will have to sort out what medical care will be covered, who will pay for it and when that money will be paid. Police and county staff also are working to assist the family through this often confusing process and held a meeting Monday to begin sorting through the rules.

The county's coverage on its auxiliary officers is a reimbursement policy, meaning that either the Lucas family or its primary health insurer can file a claim with the county only after the medical care has been provided. In addition, the county can cover $200,000 in medical expenses, half of which is for the loss of a limb, Sanudo said.

The county purchased the policy in 1996, and Sanudo said the county has not used it until now. In light of Lucas' accident, however, Feaga said he wants the council to review whether better coverage is needed.

In an interview last week and in a statement through his spokeswoman yesterday, Police Chief Wayne Livesay echoed Sanudo's pledge to do everything he can. He also said that he will keep Lucas, who was in the process of applying to become a full-time officer, with the department for as long as possible.

A member of the Lucas family said she appreciates the outpouring of support from police and firefighters, which will be needed for months to come.

"Physical therapy is coming, and the county is trying to make sure that's covered and paid for," said Anna Lucas, the injured officer's sister. "That's what these talks are about, and we don't know how long therapy will be, how much it will cost and where it will be."

melissa.harris@baltsun.com

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