Death Of NJ Firefighter Inspires Push For Measure That Would Ensure Health Insurance Coverage For Families Of First Responders

By Cleve Bryan

CINNAMINSON, NJ (CBS) – It’s been seven weeks since Cinnaminson firefighter Christopher Hunter died and his presence is still strongly felt throughout the department he served for more than 20 years.

“If it happened in this department he was involved in it and to try to bridge that gap has been a lot,” says Lt. Dean Jernigan.

Hunter’s wife has also had a lot to deal with including losing health insurance.

“She went to the doctor’s office with her son and found out that there was no health insurance,” says Danny Norman, president of the Burlington County Professional Fire Fighters Association.

On November 15th Lieutenant Hunter died at home from cardiac arrest after completing a shift.

Officials say because the 38-year-old died within 24 hours after a shift his death is considered “active duty” rather than in the line of duty.

His family has to pay $1,700 a month for COBRA coverage.

Hunter’s situation compelled New Jersey Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D- Mount Laurel) to file Bill A4062 which would allow families of firefighters, police and EMT’s who died on active duty to keep their health insurance for an extended period.

“When they get their health insurance a part of their negotiation is that they shall have a component of their health insurance that allows the continuation of coverage in active duty deaths for at least six months to allow folks some time to transition to get their own health insurance,” says Singleton.

This measure wouldn’t help Lt. Hunter’s family, but it could make a big difference for his co-workers and many first responders throughout New Jersey.

“If I passI’m not going to see a benefit from it, but I want to make sure my kids are taken care of more than anything,” says Jernigan.

Singleton says the bill was filed in December and has not been assigned to a committee yet.

Anyone who would like to help Hunter’s family can donate to the Hunter Children Fund c/o the Cinnaminson Fire Department, 1725 Cinnaminson Ave, Cinnaminson, NJ 08077.

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