It’s no secret that firefighters have dangerous jobs. Dealing with burning buildings in the midst of panic and chaos takes exceptional courage and skills. With the physical risks and rigors that go along with the job, it is expected that firefighters should be taken care of when they are injured. However, the Pennsylvania Legislature is dealing with the unintended consequences of a new law that was designed to protect the rights of volunteer firefighters.
According to a report from citizensvoice.com, a number of insurance companies are dropping coverage to such companies as a result of Act 46, a law that would allow firefighters stricken with cancer to seek workers’ compensation benefits. Passed by the General Assembly in July 2011, Act 46 provides a rebuttable presumption that a firefighter’s cancer is work related if an applicant proves that he or she:
• Had participated in continuous firefighting duty for four or more years
• Successfully passed a cancer-free physical exam prior to beginning their duties
This essentially created a greater risk of exposure than insurance companies predicted, even though they were involved in drafting the bill. The State Workers’ Insurance Fund has reportedly seen a jump in the number of workers’ comp applications from volunteer companies, and insurers are becoming nervous. They are concerned about the range of cancers that are covered by statute. This ostensibly has led to widespread concern.
Some are looking to drop coverage, others are taking a cautious approach to see how additional benefits requests accrue. Regardless of what happens, lawmakers must find a remedy to continue the protections afforded to volunteer firefighters.
Source: CitzensVoice.com, Volunteer fire departments lose workers’ comp coverage under new state law, November 17, 2012