After news reports of foreign student Phuong Dinh’s slow recovery and soon-to-lapse medical coverage, state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler and North Seattle College both say they’ll help her obtain ongoing insurance coverage.
An international student badly hurt when a Ride the Ducks tourist vehicle plowed into a bus on Seattle’s Aurora Bridge is now getting help to obtain a new, fully subsidized insurance plan that would cover her medical costs while she recovers from her injuries, state officials said Friday.
Responding to media reports about 18-year-old Phuong Dinh’s slow recovery and her soon-to-lapse student medical coverage, Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler this week personally contacted Dinh’s attorney to assist in finding her a private health-care plan through the Washington Health Benefit Exchange.
Meantime, North Seattle College, a state-funded community college from which Dinh is now on medical leave, announced it will cover private-insurance costs for Dinh and other crash victims should they lose their student coverage during prolonged medical leaves from the school.
How to help
Donations to assist the Aurora Bridge crash victims can still be made through a United Way fund or a Seattle Colleges fund.
To make a donation online, visit https://www.razoo.com/story/Bus-Accident-Support/
Source: City of Seattle, North Seattle College
“The college received legal counsel from the Attorney General’s Office that it can use gifted funds to cover the costs of monthly premiums and deductibles for students who face a loss of coverage,” college spokeswoman Melissa Mixon said in an email Friday. “The college will be reimbursed for these expenses by funds with the state dedicated to emergencies.”
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Dinh, an international student from Vietnam who came to Seattle to study business, had been in the country for 10 days when the deadly crash occurred on Sept. 24.
She suffered facial and neck cuts and broken bones in her left arm and leg that required four surgeries. She is now living at a Seattle nursing home while potentially facing months of rehabilitation and hundreds of thousands of dollars in costs, her lawyer, Karen Koehler, said.
As her recovery has dragged on, Dinh told reporters during a news conference this week that she felt “forgotten.” She and Koehler described how an outpouring of concern and donations immediately after the crash has since subsided, and that Dinh faced the loss of her student insurance in early January because she is no longer enrolled in school.
Aside from Dinh, at least four other crash victims remain in long-term-care facilities, Koehler said.
Earlier this week, North Seattle College said LewerMark, the college’s insurer for international students, requires students to remain enrolled to continue receiving health benefits.
Federal restrictions also limit the number of online courses an international student on an F1 visa can take, preventing Dinh from maintaining her enrollment. International students must be enrolled for a full-time load of 12 class credits to maintain their visa status, Mixon said. North Seattle offers an array of online classes, but the federal government allows only one such class to count toward the requirement, she said.
To become eligible for private insurance while she’s not an enrolled student, Dinh likely will need to get the U.S. State Department to switch her to a non-student visa during her recovery.
“If she can get her visa corrected, she could be eligible for a private insurance plan through the exchange,” said Stephanie Marquis, a spokeswoman for Kreidler’s office.
Kreidler has since arranged for Koehler to connect with insurance officials in King County to review plan options, and advised her to contact U.S. Sen. Patty Murray to seek assistance in getting Dinh’s visa issue resolved, Marquis said.
Following news reports about Dinh this week, many people, including Kreidler and others, have reached out to offer help, Koehler said.
“This wouldn’t have been possible without you guys,” Koehler said of the media. “I was banging my head against walls, and you guys changed that.”
This week, Dinh, who said Ride the Ducks has not contacted her since the crash, became the second victim to sue the excursion company. In all, five international students were killed and dozens more people injured after the Duck vehicle went out of control and crashed into the oncoming bus chartered by the college.
After the accident, the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) suspended Ride the Ducks’ operations amid an ongoing investigation. The UTC is expected to issue findings later this month and decide whether some of the excursion company’s Duck vehicles can safely return to service.
The National Transportation Safety Board, which also continues to investigate the crash, has issued a preliminary report finding that a defective axle on the Duck vehicle caused the accident.
Brian Tracey, owner of the Seattle Ducks firm, issued a statement this week expressing sorrow for Dinh and other victims that also said his company has been unable to financially assist victims as yet because it’s bound to its insurer’s claims process.