RC council to revisit health insurance resolution for line of duty deaths

While Iowa COBRA rules limit employers to extending health insurance benefits to dependents of employees killed in the line of duty to 36 months following the death, Rockwell City officials are sticking with their plan to offer those benefits for five years.

A 2014 city resolution established the five-year health insurance extension, following the death of Rockwell City police officer Jamie Buenting. Buenting’s wife, Amanda Buenting, approached the city last month to ask officials to extend health insurance indefinitely for her and until the Buenting children turned 26; some states have adopted new laws following those same guidelines.

The problem with that request, Rockwell City Mayor Phil Heinlen said, was that the health insurance extension program, known as COBRA, imposed much shorter limits, and without a state law change, neither the city nor its health insurance provider, Wellmark, had much leeway to extend benefits. 

Still, Heinlen said at the council’s meeting Sept. 5, the city is sticking with five years, not three, which provides health insurance for the Buentings through September 2018.

“We made a commitment to five years,” Heinlen said. “I don’t hear anybody here who wants to back off of that.” 

Read more in the Sept. 13 edition.