Money Watchers: Town grapples with firefighter's medical costs

Westport firefighter Steven Lopes is recovering from a 30-foot fall while battling a house fire, and his medical bills have exceeded what insurance will cover.

"I think this was unfortunately an eye opener for a lot of people. The town had an insurance policy but it had a $100,000 cap for medical, which in a circumstance like this with a catastrophic injury goes very quickly," said Chief Brian Legendre of the Westport Fire Department.

The town had been self-insured, but as of July, the town will change that and carry a catastrophic policy.

"I don't think we're unique in looking into this and talking with other communities it's pretty much a standard in other cities and towns that they can't afford an umbrella policy," said Tony Vieira, chairman of the Board of Selectmen.

According to The Herald News, a town meeting on May 3 approved of selectmen petitioning the state legislature for a funding mechanism to pay for any associated expenses through June 2018.

"The town meeting just approved $465,000 in free cash to do the immediate care bills and they are even preparing for long-term care with work through the legislature to do an override annually that will cover (Lopes's) medical bills which we hope won't be necessary. But they are being proactive in starting that process early," Vieira said.

Lopes is scheduled to be discharged on Saturday.

"He's thrilled to be coming home after two-and-a-half months, so we're happy for him," Legendre said.