Bill would extend insurance benefits to families of fallen Colo. workers, but not to county workers

Posted at 4:48 PM, Feb 08, 2018

DENVER -- Velma Donahue was going through the worst week of her life. Her husband Cody, a Colorado State Patrol trooper, was killed in a crash along I-25. The day before his funeral, she took her daughter to the doctor and was told she didn’t have health insurance. 

According to current Colorado law, insurance benefits for families of a state employee who is killed on the job expire on the first day of the next month. For Velma, that was six days after her husband died. 

“Let me bury my husband before I have to go through forms and forms and forms of information, and explaining why I need insurance again, and telling them, 'Yes I’m a new widow,'” she told Denver7. 

That’s why she is the spokesperson for a new bill introduced at the state Capitol that would extend the insurance benefits for families of state workers who are killed on the job. This includes Colorado State Patrol, the state Department of Corrections, CDOT, and more. The bill is Senate Bill 148.

“These people that are working on behalf of us in different departments around the state are willing to put their lives on the line for us....We need to be willing to step up and make sure their families are supported when something tragic happens,” state Rep. Polly Lawrence said.

The bill would extend that insurance to family members for an additional 12 months. 

“When someone’s going through grief, the last thing they’re thinking about is, oh I got a letter I’ve got to deal with insurance,” Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik said.

Since the bill would only cover state employees, it would not impact the families of the three sheriff's deputies killed in the line of duty over the last few months. But Velma Donahue thinks it should – eventually.

“If Deputy Parrish had this same situation, his family deserves it. And Deputy Gumm. And Deputy Flick. They all deserve this,” she said.

And state lawmakers seemed open to the idea Thursday. 

“We can certainly take a look at that if (the counties) come to us and ask us to take a look at that as well. I don’t think any one of us standing here would be opposed to talking to them about the needs because we have had some county employees killed recently,” Martinez Humenik said.

“It is important that any public employee in the line of duty, if they’re killed in that line of duty, that we maintain that same level of commitment to their families,” Senator Dominick Moreno said.