Wounded police officer's insurance will expire soon; who pays medical bills thereafter remains a mystery

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ST. THOMAS - Wounded V.I. Police Officer Colvin Georges' government health insurance is set to expire Aug. 31, leaving it unclear how the government specifically plans to provide its promised financial support for the officer's medical bills.

Georges was shot in the line of duty in May after being fired upon near a Contant car wash. A bullet struck Georges in the neck and has left him paralyzed from the shoulders down.

The V.I. Code provides workers' compensation payments to employees injured in the line of duty. However, the statute contains a maximum allowable benefit of $200,000.

Georges' medical bills surpassed that amount within weeks of his injury, according to family members.

Since then, Cigna, the government's private health insurance provider, has continued to cover the wounded officer beyond the scope of its plan with the government, according to Cigna spokesman Jon Sandberg. The government's plan does not cover injuries sustained in the line of duty, including those otherwise covered by workers' compensation, but the company has been making an exception for Georges, according to Sandberg.

The limitation on coverage also is reflected in a summary of Cigna benefits posted on the V.I. Personnel Division's website.

"We think we've gone above and beyond, because those costs weren't supposed to be covered by health care," Sandberg said.

The coverage will last through the end of August, according to Sandberg.

"It's clear that there is a gap between the island's workers' compensation coverage and the plan," Sandberg said.

For Georges, who is about to enter that gap, what happens next is unclear.

Government House spokesman Jean Greaux Jr. said the government will take "whatever steps necessary" to provide for Georges' medical treatment and long-term care. Greaux cited "privacy issues" and declined to go into any detail about what those steps would be, including how the government intended to pay for the officer's care.

"I can tell you that Officer Georges and his family will not be left to fend for themselves," Greaux said.

Sandberg also said he had no details on a way forward.

"As I said, I do know that our representatives on the island and in the whole Caribbean have been working very hard, talking to the authorities to see if there's a solution, but I have no specifics on that," Sandberg said.

Members of Georges' family said they, too, are not certain what will happen after Aug. 31, but they hope to have more information by early next week. The officer's brother, Peter Georges, said the family is working to get Colvin Georges transferred to an Atlanta facility for rehabilitation.

On Tuesday, the Legislature passed a bill to increase the cap on worker compensation claims to $750,000 for "hazardous duty" employees, such as police officers, firefighters, prison guards and other public safety workers. The governor has 10 days from the bill's passage to act on the legislation.

Raising that cap would be a "drop in the bucket" for Colvin Georges' long-term needs, his brother said.

"He's going to need a lifetime of care," Peter Georges said.

- Contact reporter Lou Mattei at 714-9124 or email lmattei@dailynews.vi.

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