Those who are chosen to serve and protect the public, expect to receive protection from the dangers of their jobs in the form of adequate health and medical emergency care when the worst happens. In 2017, Arizona passed HB2161 which expanded on what types of cancers could be included for firefighter coverage with Arizona’s workers’ compensation.
The previous and newly added cancer types approved for treatment under Arizona’s HB2161 guidelines are listed below.
· Rectal or colon
· Leukemia, Adenocarcinoma, mesothelioma of the respiratory tract
· Buccal cavity (cheek) and pharynx
· Large intestine
· Stomach or Testicular cancer
· Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
· Multiple Myeloma or malignant melanoma
As part of the conditions for hiring as a firefighter (or peace officer), each must pass a physical examination and receive a clear status on any type of cancer. Eligible firefighters (and peace officers) must have been working in hazardous assignments for at least five years.
Finally, the firefighter or peace officer must have been exposed to a known carcinogen that would be related to the cancer types listed above. However, if the firefighter (or peace officer) is a known smoker, he or she is disqualified from receiving treatment and/or benefits. Retired officers and firefighters have up to 15 years to claim benefits for related cancers.
While the bill passed, not all cities are on board with following through on providing the help that firefighters need when diagnosed with these cancers, due to exposures of chemicals in fires while on the job. A recent article in the Arizona Capitol Times Online states that firefighters are being denied quickly after filing their workers’ compensation claims.
Cities have 21 days to respond to such claims. So far, according to the news article, almost all are being denied quickly. The firefighter has up to 90 days to file an appeal after a claim denial. The situation is so dire now for firefighters that even Arizona’s Attorney General is getting involved, asking cities why they are not following the law of Arizona.
On the federal level, the Firefighter Registry Cancer Act (H.R. 931) was created to track and conduct research into the impact of the dangers of firefighting on those who fight them for a living. President Donald Trump signed the act into law on July 7, 2018, and the registry will have oversight from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The goal from such a collection of data and analysis from voluntary registrants will provide more qualified insight into the evidence of firefighters acquiring cancer from the environment of their firefighting jobs. The results will also help with devising better processes, operational procedures, better equipment to help protect firefighters and develop better training for staying safe whenever possible. You can find out more on the First Responder Center for Excellence Online here.
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