May 6, 2019

Growing Trend: Expanding Cancer Coverage for Firefighters

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recently signed Senate Bill 426 into law, expanding workers’ comp benefits to firefighters diagnosed with 21 different types of work-related cancer, effective July 1, 2019.

In the line of duty, firefighters are often exposed to carcinogens as building material burns, putting them at risk of developing certain cancers over time. This new Florida law is only the most recent addition to a growing number of states expanding cancer coverage for firefighters in workers’ comp.

In April, Montana Senate Bill 160 was signed into law, expanding workers’ comp coverage to 11 types of cancers for firefighters, while Maryland House Bill 604 was signed to cover nine types of cancer for firefighters. In March, Virginia House Bill 1804 added three additional cancers to the list of occupational diseases covered for firefighters, which already included certain cancers.

Currently, North Carolina House Bill 520 now sits with the state Senate after having passed the House, potentially adding another state to the movement. This bill would add nine cancers to the list of covered occupational diseases, applying to both paid and volunteer firefighters.

These laws come with varying eligibility requirements; for example, Florida requires that firefighters serve at least five years and not have used tobacco products for five years in order to provide coverage, while Montana allows payers to not cover certain cancers if it is proven the disease did not develop as a result of firefighting.

As this trend continues to grow, workers’ comp programs must adapt to properly care for a higher number of cancer patients, requiring a greater understanding of oncology medications and perhaps other types of specialty pharmacy.

Furthermore, this trend continues to demonstrate the legislative priority that first responders are receiving in state chambers. Several states have passed laws to provide workers’ comp coverage for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical workers, making the first responder population a group to watch; this segment of the workforce may continue to spur legislative change that could have a serious impact on comp.

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