The Illinois Supreme Court recently reveresed a decision of the Appellate Court holding that an employee who suffered a career-ending injury was not entitled to payment of his health insurance premium by the employer until such time that he was awarded a line-of-duty disability from the pension fund.  

                Police Officer Don Nowak was injured in the line of duty while making an arrest in August of 2005.  He never returned to work as a result of the injury and was ultimately found to be permanently disabled.   As required under the Public Employee Disability Act (PEDA), the City of Country Club Hills paid Officer Nowak 100% of his salary for up to a year following his injury, but continued to deduct health care premiums from the officer’s check.   Officer Nowak continued to pay health care premiums up until the time he was awarded a line of duty disability pension from the Police Pension Board in October of 2008.  Thereafter, the City began paying 100% of the health insurance premium costs.  The officer sought reimbursement for the premiums he had paid from the date of his injury through the date of the disability pension award. 

The Illinois Supreme Court held that an employer’s obligation to pay the entire health insurance premium for an injured officer and his family attaches on the date that it is determined that the officer’s injury is “catastrophic.”  Therefore, the date when the injured officer is found to be permanently disabled and is awarded a line-of-duty disability pension is when the employer is responsible to pay health insurance benefits pursuant to the Public Safety Employee Benefits Act.  (820 ILCS 320/10(a). 

Nowak v. City of Country Club Hills, Supreme Court of Illinois(Decided 12/1/11).

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