Last year, a law was passed meant to benefit volunteer firefighters. The law enables these volunteers to collect benefits if they develop cancer as a result of exposure to carcinogens at fire scenes. Now, two insurers which cover the municipalities will be dropping their workers’ compensation coverage for volunteer firefighters.
The Firefighter Cancer Prevention Act denotes cancer as an occupational disease for both paid and volunteer firefighters. The window for firefighters (who must serve at least four years to qualify) is 11 and a half years, which is double the window for a typical workers’ compensation claim. If they can prove they were exposed to carcinogens at the scene of a fire, or that a site they served at involved hazardous materials, the firefighters would be able to collect benefits.
The volunteers will have to move their coverage to the State Workers’ Insurance Fund, which includes a premium increase. This may result in a doubled rate for some townships. Firefighters, both paid and volunteer, put their lives on the line for the safety and survival of their communities. They take additional risks of exposure to harmful chemicals that could result in severe illnesses later in life.
The whole idea of workers’ compensation is that employees are compensated for their work-related injuries. The volunteer firefighters will be forced to change their insurers to a more expensive plan, due to the actions of the insurance companies. The financial situation for the municipalities is precarious — hence the need for a volunteer force — but their health and wellness, both in the present and down the line, should not be sacrificed.
Source: Insurance News, “Cost of firefighter worker’s-comp insurance rising,” Chris Foreman, Tribune-Review, Sept. 6, 2012