SALISBURY – Emergency legislation allowing the families of county employees killed in the line of duty to retain health insurance coverage passed in a 4-0 vote this week.
On Tuesday, the Wicomico County Council held a special meeting and public hearing for the purposes of amending the county’s personnel manual to expand health care benefits for the families of county employees killed in the line of duty.
“This is a public hearing on legislative bill 2022-09, an emergency act to amend the Wicomico County personnel manual, Chapter 10 – Employee Benefits, Section 1013 Death Benefit, to allow family members of an employee killed in the line of duty to retain health insurance coverage,” said Andrew Mitchell, council attorney.
Earlier this month, the county council introduced emergency legislation pertaining to death benefits following the line-of-duty death of Wicomico County Sheriff’s Deputy Glenn Hilliard. In the days following his death, county officials learned the Wicomico personnel manual set different premium rates for families of deceased employees.
“Under our current policy we have two sections, a deceased employee eligible for retirement and then a deceased employee not eligible for retirement,” Human Resources Director Jaclyn Curry said at the time. “Under that section, the family that has the insurance would have to continue that in the method of COBRA … However, it is at an extremely high premium rate.”
She continued, “What we’re proposing is if an employee is killed in the line of duty, that the family that is current on their plan would be able to continue that in the capacity of a retired employee’s family, which is a much cheaper monthly premium.”
In June, the county council met in a special session to discuss health care benefits for a service in the line of duty death and ways to assist family members. Major Tod Richardson of the Wicomico County Sheriff’s Office urged council members to make the necessary changes before July 31, when Hilliard’s health care benefits are set to expire.
“Currently the family is covered until July 31 under this current situation,” he said at the time.
Back on the agenda for introduction earlier this month, Mitchell said the proposed manual changes would address line-of-duty death benefits for families of all county employees, not just law enforcement personnel.
“In essence, they would retain the insurance coverage in the same manner as would be a retired employee …,” he said at the time.
With no further discussion this week, the council voted 4-0, with Councilmen Larry Dodd, Joe Holloway and Bill McCain absent, to approve the emergency legislation.