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Questions Surface Over $265k City Workers Compensation Settlement
Questions Surface Over $265k City Workers Compensation Settlement

A hefty workers compensation settlement for a former city of Springfield employee is raising some eyebrows.

The Springfield City Council this week approved a $265,000 workers compensation settlement after a knee injury left Stephen Homa unable to continue as a City Water Light and Power meter reader. Pat Smith, an attorney with Delano Law Offices who specializes in workers compensation cases, explains what happens if the claimant in a workers comp case gets another job — as Homa has done.

“If you were making $21 an hour at a job, you’re injured, you can’t return to that job and you take another job and you’re only at $6 an hour, the difference between your wages is $15 an hour,” says Smith. “You’re entitled under the rules to 2/3 of that amount.”

That’s what’s known in the industry as a “two-thirds differential.”

Homa now works at Memorial Medical Center as a Healthcare Coding Associate, which requires certification or at least six months experience. Homa started full time at Memorial August 19th, the workers comp settlement was approved August 20. Sources in Springfield’s health care field indicate a certified Healthcare Coding Associate starts at $15 an hour, less if they’re not certified.

Memorial fired four coding associates in late July and started interviewing replacements three weeks ago, sources say.

This leads some aldermen to question whether the more than quarter million dollar settlement was arrived at too quickly and not enough research was conducted — also whether Homa was interviewing with Memorial while they were discussing the settlement.

The city, in a statement, said it couldn’t provide details on how the settlement was reached citing personnel issues.

“Worker’s Comp at the city is standard. If an employee is injured on the job, the individual files a report with the work/comp contact in their department. The file is reviewed by the legal department and sent to the city’s 3rd party administrator, who handles the files and pays the bills,” said city spokesman Nathan Mihelich. “Not all cases meet the criteria for settlement. If it does rise to the criteria of a settlement, that settlement is normally approved by the city council and paid out in a lump sum.”

Should a hearing occur, it’s possible officials could determine a settlement for all future health care costs plus an appropriate “two-thirds differential” number. It’s also possible the number could be higher than $265,000 if a hearing is conducted.

The city said this week there were no other jobs available for Homa, who made nearly $67,000 a year as a meter reader.