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FMG Law Blog Line

Governor Deal Signs House Bill 146 Firefighter Cancer Insurance Coverage

Posted on: July 14th, 2017

By: Pamela F. Everett

On May 4, 2017, Governor Deal signed House Bill 146 to amend Georgia Code Section 25-3-23 to provide cancer insurance coverage to fire fighters. This Bill, which becomes effective January 1, 2018, requires that all Georgia cities, counties and private companies with legally organized fire departments purchase and maintain cancer insurance coverage for firefighters.

In 2010, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducted a multi-year study of nearly 30,000 fire fighters from the Chicago, Philadelphia, and San Francisco Fire Departments to determine if there was a potential link between fire fighting and cancer. The study was a joint effort by researchers at NIOSH, the National Cancer Institute and the University of California at Davis Department of Public Health Sciences. The fire fighters in the Study showed higher rates of certain types of cancer such as digestive, oral, respiratory, and urinary cancers, than the general U.S. population.

As many of you will recall, there was an effort by the Georgia House and Senate during the 2015-2016 Session to adopt House Bill 216 which would have amended Georgia’s Occupational Disease Statute to add a new Code section 34-9-293. This amendment was an attempt to compensate firefighters through the Workers’ Compensation Act for cancer which manifested during the period in which the firefighter was in the service of the city or county. This Bill was vetoed by Governor Deal.

HB 146 provides insurance coverage to pay for claims for cancer diagnosed after having served 12 consecutive months as a firefighter with a city, county or private fire department. The types of cancer covered are blood, brain, breast, cervical, esophageal, intestinal, kidney, lymphatic, lung, prostate, rectal, respiratory tract, skin, testicular, thyroid, leukemia, multiple myeloma or non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

The statute, as amended, provides that insurance benefits shall include, at a minimum, the following:

– A lump sum benefit of $25,000.00 subject to limitations specified in the insurance contract and based on severity of cancer and payable to the firefighter upon submission to the insurance carrier or other payor of acceptable proof of diagnosis by a physician board certified in the medical specialty appropriate for the type of cancer involved that there are one or more malignant tumors characterized by the uncontrollable and abnormal growth and spread of malignant cells with invasion of normal tissue and that:

  • Surgery, radiotherapy, or chemotherapy is medically necessary;
  • There is metastasis; or
  • The firefighter has terminal cancer, is expected to die within 24 months or less from the date of diagnosis, and will not benefit from, or has exhausted, curative therapy.

– A lump sum benefit of $6,250.00 subject to limitations specified in the insurance contract and based on severity of cancer and payable to the firefighter upon submission to the insurance carrier or other payor of acceptable proof of diagnosis by a physician board certified in the medical specialty appropriate for the type of cancer involved that:

  • There is carcinoma in situ such that surgery, radiotherapy, or chemotherapy has been determined to be medically necessary;
  • There are malignant tumors which are treated by endoscopic procedures alone;
  • There are malignant melanomas; or
  • There is a tumor of the prostate, provided that it is treated with radical prostatectomy or external beam therapy.

– A monthly benefit equal to 60 percent of the member’s monthly salary as an employed firefighter with the fire department or a monthly benefit of $5,000.00, whichever is less.

– If the member is a volunteer, a monthly benefit of $1,500.00.

– The combined total of all benefits received by any firefighter during his or her lifetime shall not exceed $50,000.00.

No firefighter who is a member of more than one fire department shall be entitled to receive benefits on behalf of more than one of such fire departments.

It is imperative that all Georgia fire departments ensure that it has an accurate database that tracks all employees and volunteers to guarantee the proper payment of premiums or an adequate amount of self-insurance. The Georgia Firefighter Standards & Training Council (GFSTC) also has a database of all legally organized fire departments and certified firefighters. However, this database does not appear to be current.  The Association of County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG) and Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) are recommending that every fire department, both public and private, contact GFSTC to provide all necessary updates.  Additionally, both ACCG and GMA are offering insurance programs to provide the required cancer insurance coverage.

If your city or county contracts with a private company to provide fire services, it is also important to ensure that the private company is still legally organized and listed on the Georgia Secretary of State’s website as an active company or corporation. Your city and/or county also will need to ensure that the private company provides cancer insurance to its employees and volunteers as required by O.C.G.A. §25-3-23. These contracts may need to be modified or updated to ensure compliance with the new law. If the private company fails to obtain the cancer insurance as required by law, the contracting city or county may be liable for the payment of any claims filed.

Additionally, GFSTC has been authorized to adopt rules and regulations as are reasonable and necessary to implement the provisions of this new Code section and to establish and modify minimum requirements for all fire departments operating Georgia. Be on the look out for new these rules.

For assistance in amending contracts with a private company that provide fire services, or in reviewing your existing policies and procedures to ensure compliance with Georgia law, please contact Pamela Everett at [email protected].

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