Florida Senate OKs bill for firefighter cancer benefits

Florida Senate OKs bill for firefighter cancer benefits

TALLAHASSEE, Florida.: Cancer would be treated like an on-the-job injury for Florida firefighters and they’d receive a new package of benefits under a bill the Senate unanimously passed.
The bill would provide firefighters with cancer the full cost of treatment, a $25,000 payout, disability pay and death benefits for beneficiaries. The bill lists 21 forms of cancer that would be covered.

“Firefighters do in fact get cancer at a much higher rate at a much younger age,” said Republican Sen. Anitere Flores, the bill’s sponsor. “Two out of every three firefighters in our state and across the country will contract one of these types of cancers in their career.”

The bill is also one that has failed for years. Flores said some version of it has been filed since 2003. It almost died this year because the House wasn’t going to take it up. It was revived last month when Speaker Jose Oliva acknowledged pressure to hear the bill and allowed it to be considered in committee.

Republican Sen. Ed Hooper is a retired firefighter who said the statistics Flores cited makes him nervous. He said back when he was a firefighter, his colleagues didn’t take as many precautions about cleaning their gear of potential carcinogens.

“It was not cool to have clean gear. It was cool to have really dirty, filthy gear to show that you were not the rookie, that you had been there and done that more than once and that made you a little tougher,” said Hooper. “Little did we know back then that all we were doing was working toward killing ourselves.

Stupidity is not necessarily a great thing, but with progress comes knowledge.”
Firefighters would have to be tobacco-free for at least five years before diagnosis to be eligible.
The bill is a priority for Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, who serves as the state’s fire marshal and who has been handing out decontamination kits at fire stations while pushing for the cancer benefits.

“Seventy per cent of firefighter line-of-duty deaths are cancer-related and the men and women fighting this disease need to know that Florida stands with them,” Patronis said in a news release after the Senate vote. AP

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