City of Fairbanks to temporarily cover health premiums for family of fallen officer

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) The city of Fairbanks says it will cover health insurance premiums for the Brandt family through the end of the year.

From Fairbanks Police Department

Fairbanks Police Sgt. Allen Brandt was shot multiple times in the line of duty on Oct. 16 and later died because of complications from eye surgery. Shrapnel from one of the shots struck Brandt's bulletproof vest and lodged in the officer's left eye. He was in Anchorage for surgery when he died surrounded by family last week.

He left behind a wife and four children ranging in age from two to eight years old.

During a phone interview on Wednesday, the mayor of Fairbanks, Jim Matherly, said the city will pay for coverage for the family through the end of the year and that Fairbanks Memorial Hospital has also asked about providing services to the family, although it's unclear what that includes.

The Brandt family was set to lose its medical coverage because of Brandt's death on Nov. 30.

Matherly said the city council is also considering providing additional payments for the family at its next meeting.

"We want to fund that through the end of the year," Matherly said, "We want to do it going forward and that was what we're discussing now at the council level. The two main things we've committed to right now is end of the year and then we also put some money out for the cost for the upcoming services for Sgt. Brandt."

There have been several failed attempts by the Alaska Legislature, led mostly by Rep. Charisse Millett (R-Anchorage) dealing with retirement and death benefits that would continue health coverage for surviving families of fallen first responders. Nothing has passed.

The wives of Trooper Gabe Rich and Sgt. Scott Johnson, who were killed in Tanana on May 1, 2014, have also lobbied lawmakers to continue benefits after their husbands were shot and killed.

The troopers' deaths would have immediately cut off their families' state health care insurance coverage, if Govs. Sean Parnell and Bill Walker hadn't stopped that from happening.

On May 23, Walker introduced House Bill 4002, which would provide death benefits for all peace officers in the public retirement system.

The Governor's office released a statement saying had the Legislature passed his bill, health care benefits for Sgt. Brandt's family members would have been covered. The Alaska House of Representatives on June 18 passed HB 4002 unanimously, but it failed in the Senate.

Sgt. Gerard Asselin the Anchorage Police Department Employees Association said he's hopeful next session a bill will pass.

"It's very discouraging, and fearful almost, to be left in that balance of 'am I going to have this benefit or not' and so I think for them to be left in that position is quite unfair for those families," Asselin said.

Matherly said the benefits for the Brandt family, as well as some of the costs of the service Sunday, add up to between $40,000 and $45,000.

"We want to be sure health coverage is out there for a long period of time going forward for them," Matherly said.



 
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