YOU PAID FOR IT: Mandatory school insurance finally pays off for Tampa mom

Monica and Kenney Johnson.
Monica and Kenney Johnson.

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — It’s taken a lot of time and a lot of haggling, but Monica Johnson has finally shaken the school sports insurance headache that started with her son’s concussion on the King High School football field in April 2015.

“They honored it and took care of it,” Johnson told 8 on Your Side Wednesday, two months after she sought our help.

It turns out the sports insurance that the Hillsborough School district forces Johnson and other parents to purchase doesn’t apply during off-season practice. So, when her son Kenny suffered a blow to the head in a collision with two other players on the King High practice field, a backup policy arranged by King’s football coach was supposed to cover any mishaps.

The trouble is that coach is gone and no one can locate that policy, assuming it ever existed in the first place. “We had an outside adjuster look as well,” said District Spokeswoman Tanya Arja. “And from what I understand they were not able to locate that policy.”

All of that seemed impossibly complicated for Johnson, who was stuck paying off a hospital bill that amounted to more than $3,000 even after her primary family health coverage paid most of it.

Tuesday, after two WFLA You Paid For It news reports and a lot of prodding from 8 On Your Side, the school district’s umbrella insurance carrier finally sent Johnson a check to pay off the hospital. “Thank God,” Johnson said. “Now I can get this hospital bill behind me and go forward from there.”

It shouldn’t have to be that hard. Parents across the Tampa Bay region who are forced to buy mandatory sports insurance have a right to expect compensation when injuries occur. The Hillsborough District says other parents who find themselves in a similar situation should seek help immediately from their school athletic director to avoid similar trouble.

“We’re happy to help the mom,” Arja said. “We wish we could have known a little sooner and maybe we could have helped her out a little bit sooner.”

Johnson insists she made an insurance claim in good faith and when the District’s insurance rejected it she began paying the bills as best she could. Only after her mother saw an Eight On Your Side report on the shortcomings of school insurance did she consider appealing that rejected claim.

Johnson now has some advice for other parents of student athletes who find themselves in the same situation. “Just stick with it,” Johnson said.

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