PATERSON, N.J. – Khadijah Davis was confused when she brought her son, Quashawn Muhammad, to St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center the night of Sept. 9.
Muhammad, a senior receiver/cornerback on Eastside’s football team, was transported by ambulance from Clifton Stadium after suffering a broken bone in his leg during the Ghosts’ season-opening game.
While doctors tended to her son, a hospital employee asked for her insurance card. Davis hesitated to supply it.
She has comprehensive health insurance through her job as a teacher at Passaic Tech in Wayne. Muhammad’s football career previously had not required a hospital visit, thus Davis thought insurance provided by Paterson Public Schools would cover her son’s care.
That was partially true for years, when student accident insurance carried by the district covered all medical expenses that a parent’s personal policy didn’t pay. That insurance – which covers athletics and all other extracurricular activities, everything from field trips to recess – was eliminated when the Paterson Public Schools’ budget for this academic year was finalized in the spring.
Cutting the insurance coverage saved the district roughly $400,000. But its elimination could cost parents such as Davis – whose son had surgery Sept. 10 and spent four nights at St. Joseph’s – thousands of dollars in medical bills that the Paterson Public Schools’ student accident insurance previously covered.
As of Wednesday night, Davis had not received the anticipated bills for her son’s care.
“This is weird to me,” Davis said, “being that I work at a vocational school and they make sure they have that supplemental insurance for any of the students that are injured. I contacted Quashawn’s coach [Ken Eatman] the next day, and he informed me [Paterson] no longer [has] that insurance. I was a little disturbed by that.
“He got hurt playing for his school, and you’re telling me you don’t have any type of insurance if one of the students gets injured?”
Paterson Public Schools distributed an undated official notice to parents, which was obtained by The Record, announcing it no longer carries student accident insurance. Davis said she “can’t recall” signing and returning that form, a requirement for students to participate in any extracurricular activity, according to Terry Corallo, spokeswoman for Paterson Public Schools.
A phone call seeking comment from Whippany-based Bollinger Specialty Group, the company that provides student accident insurance for many New Jersey school districts, was not returned.
On its website, Bollinger states that student accident insurance provides “benefits for injuries that occur during school hours and or at school sponsored and supervised activities. [It] serves to reduce or completely eliminate any out-of-pocket expenses not paid by primary coverage … and will pay on a primary basis in the absence of other collectible coverage.”
Neither the NJSIAA, which governs high school sports in New Jersey, nor the New Jersey School Boards Association keep statistics on how many school systems provide student accident insurance. In addition to Passaic Tech, school districts in Clifton, Hackensack, Jersey City, Passaic and Wayne offer such coverage.
State Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly (D-Paterson), who also serves as Hackensack football coach, addressed his concerns to Paterson superintendent Donnie Evans when the move to eliminate the insurance was approved.
“How do you have a kid participate in sports without having this insurance, especially in a physical sport like football?” said Wimberly, a Paterson resident, father of four and former Eastside baseball and football coach.
“It’s wrong. It’s just flat-out wrong.”
Eatman declined comment, as did Kennedy coach Ron Jackson. They referred all questions to Corallo.
“As a district, we take safety seriously,” Corallo said. “We have doctors on contract, and they are present at all games. We also have well-established relationships with medical providers who will work with our students/families who have insurance as per the Affordable Care Act or Medicaid.”