Corzine to pay about $400,000 for accident care

Posted: July 12, 2007

TRENTON - An April 12 crash almost cost Gov. Corzine his life. Now it's costing him about a half-million dollars.

Corzine, who made millions on Wall Street, had promised he would pay for the medical care and treatment required after his high-speed highway accident, which occurred when he was not wearing a seat belt.

That bill-paying process is under way, Corzine spokeswoman Lilo Stainton said yesterday, and by the end of it, the governor will have shelled out $400,000 or more.

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, which administers the state worker compensation and health-care plans, has received 55 bills totaling $80,617.80 for the bulk of the governor's care, Stainton said.

The state was settling those bills through worker's comp, because the accident was considered an on-the-job injury, said State Treasury spokesman Tom Vincz.

Corzine then would reimburse the state the $80,617, plus the cost of any "straggler bills" over the coming weeks and months, Stainton said.

Corzine expects to pay another $300,000 or more to Cooper University Hospital in Camden, where he was treated for more than two weeks. Corzine was on a ventilator for more than a week as he recuperated from a badly broken left thigh, 11 fractured ribs, a broken breastbone, and broken collarbone.

The extra $300,000, Stainton said, reflects the difference between the amount paid to Cooper - essentially the rate that would be charged a state worker - and what a wealthy person without insurance would be charged for equivalent care. That amount was worked out by insurance formulas and agreed upon by Corzine and insurance and hospital officials, Stainton said.

The roughly $400,000 total reflects "the bulk of charges from Cooper," Stainton said. It does not include other medical costs the governor might have incurred. Those costs were not available yesterday.

Corzine, who has declined the governor's annual $175,000 salary, has been known to use his own millions to save taxpayer dollars. He has paid for helicopter rides around the state and upgrades to the governor's official residence.

It is "highly unusual," Vincz said, for employees to reimburse the state for medical care.

Nor is it exactly standard for someone to volunteer to pay hundreds of thousands of extra dollars for a hospital stay. He did it, Stainton said, because "he feels it's the right thing to do."

Corzine's insistence on paying his medical bills might have as much to do with the circumstances of the accident as the size of his wallet.

His state trooper driver was going 91 m.p.h., emergency lights flashing, along the Garden State Parkway just before the crash occurred in Galloway Township, Atlantic County, according to the accident investigation. A pickup truck swerved to get out of the way, prompting a chain reaction that ended with the governor's Chevrolet Suburban crashing into a guardrail.

Corzine, who was riding unbelted in the front passenger seat, was thrown into the back of the vehicle and his broken body had to be airlifted to Cooper, where he spent more than a week in intensive care.

Doctors said he was lucky to be alive. As he emerged from the hospital, an emotional Corzine apologized to the public for not wearing his seat belt. He later asked state police to cite him for the violation. He paid a fine of $46.

He has since launched a public-service campaign preaching the benefits of buckling up.


Contact staff writer Jennifer Moroz at 609-989-8990 or jmoroz@phillynews.com.

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