Alaska House Passes Survivors’ Benefits Bill
HB 23 Extends Health Insurance to Peace Officers and Firefighters Killed in the Line of Duty
Juneau – Today, the Alaska House of Representatives unanimously passed House Bill 23, sponsored by Rep. Andy Josephson (D-Anchorage), to extend medical benefits for families of peace officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty. HB 23 would create a special fund under the direction of the Alaska Department of Public Safety to extend health insurance at the same level they were receiving when the peace officer or firefighter was killed.
“Society has a special debt to the police and firefighters who face danger every time they go to work,” said Rep. Josephson. “At the very least, we owe them the peace of mind that their families will be cared for if the worst happens.”
HB 23 includes provisions calling for the state of Alaska to pay 100 percent of the premiums for state peace officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty. The bill calls for the state to pay 50 percent of the premiums for peace officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty who work for a municipality with a population under 10,000. Municipalities with a greater population would be required to pay the full premiums for survivors. Surviving spouses become ineligible for the health insurance coverage once they get insurance coverage by other means, including when they are eligible for Medicare at the age of 65. Dependent children become ineligible when they receive insurance coverage by other means or when they reach the age of 26.
Last year, the full Alaska Legislature failed to pass legislation to address the same coverage gap by utilizing the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS). By going through the Department of Public Safety, HB 23 avoids adding to the existing unfunded liability in PERS. HB 23 includes language providing continuing health insurance coverage for the surviving children of single parents killed in the line of duty, which was an impossibility through the PERS system because those benefits are specifically tied to the spouse of the deceased.
“Today, we are proud to back up our appreciation for those who risk their lives to save ours,” said HB 23 co-sponsor Rep. David Guttenberg (D-Fairbanks). “When they make the ultimate sacrifice we will stand behind their families. These public servants more than earn our state and communities’ concern for their surviving families.”
40 peace officers and 11 firefighters have been killed in the line of duty in Alaska in the last 45 years.
HB 23 passed the Alaska House of Representatives by a vote of 40-0. The bill now goes to the Alaska Senate for consideration.
For more information, please contact Alaska House Majority Coalition Press Secretary Mike Mason at (907) 444-0889.