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ACCIDENT INSURANCE MIGHT COME IN HANDY

Don't overlook that application. The policy could save you a lot on your child's medical bills.

Buried in a folder or child's backpack on the first day of school is something that could save some families a bundle: an application for student accident insurance.

For years, the Hernando County School District has offered the policies in conjunction with an insurance agency. Officials say it's an economical hedge against the fact that insurers don't always pay for incidents that happen at school, unless negligence can be proven.

"The district shall not be responsible for the costs of treating injuries or assume liability for other costs associated with an injury at school," warns a letter being sent home to parents on the first day of school.

This year at least a dozen families without health insurance found out they could have used a policy, after the Challenger K-8 School of Science and Mathematics was evacuated on Jan. 26 due to fumes of unknown origin.

Because school and emergency officials were unable to find a cause for the smell, the district's insurance provider refused to pay the bills for 36 students who were taken by ambulance and treated in local hospitals. Some families without health insurance faced thousands of dollars in unanticipated costs.

Under the accident insurance, students are covered by AIG Life Insurance Co. against accidents at school for $11 a year, said risk management specialist Laurel Terrell.

For $62, students are covered 24 hours a day for accidents, she said. If they fall from a tree or skateboard and break an arm, the policy will help pay the bills.

Students enrolled in interscholastic sports must show proof of at least $30,000 in medical coverage. Alternatively, they can take out a high school sports accident policy for $59, or $79 for football, Terrell said.

But the policies don't cover illness or other health-related matters aside from accidents as they're defined in the policy, she said. They're intended to "fill in gaps in coverage," including some deductibles, rather than as primary coverage.

"This is only emergency or accident coverage. It wouldn't (cover them) if they had appendicitis," Terrell said.

For more information on insurance coverage, call the district's risk management office at 797-7247.

Tom Marshall can be reached at tmarshall@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1431.

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