HB 146: Firefighter Cancer Insurance Passes through Senate, Awaits House
Last Updated: March 30, 2017
House Bill 146 for Firefighter Cancer Insurance has been sent to Governor Nathan Deal for signature. If approved, the bill goes into effect January 1, 2018. This legislation requires fire departments to provide a lump sum payment to any firefighter diagnosed with certain types of cancers and up to three years of disability payments if the firefighter can no longer perform his/her duties as such due to illness or injury. The coverage is estimated to cost about $1 a day per firefighter, whether an employee or volunteer of the fire department. Local governments need to plan for this new expense in next year's budgets. While this will impact the counties' finances, it is about one-third the cost of the bill that was passed last year and vetoed by Governor Deal.
Many, including ACCG, opposed last year's legislation (HB 216) mandating Georgia counties provide workers' compensation coverage to their firefighters for cancer. In addition to the expense, there was a relatively low standard of proof with no time limitation on diagnosis or restriction on eligible types of cancer. Potential disagreements over whether the cancer was work-related were expected to increase litigation costs and cause delays in the claims handling process.
"Everyone recognizes the critical service that firefighters provide in our communities," said ACCG Director of Property & Casualty Programs David Uhlman. "This legislation allows firefighters to be compensated immediately upon receiving a cancer diagnosis, when they need it the most. Legislators were committed to addressing this issue this year, and we believe this solution is a less expensive alternative to workers' compensation."
ACCG has been diligently working on a group program to help control the counties' costs and make this an easier process for counties to be in compliance with the law. It will also be easier for the firefighters to understand their coverage and obtain their benefits upon diagnosis. Click here to obtain a "Frequently Asked Questions" document for answers to some general questions about the bill and the group program. There is also a town hall session on Sunday morning at the upcoming ACCG Annual Conference, where ACCG staffers examine HB 146 and answer questions. More will be conveyed to all counties as the details of this program are finalized.
Should you have questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Ashley Abercrombie or David Uhlman at 404.522.5022 or 800.858.2224.