Act 46 of 2011 may not be cause for celebration for workers' compensation providers, and, in turn, may cause complications for municipalities seeking their insurance, there is one group that sees the law as a breath of fresh air - the emergency responders it seeks to help.
"I don't think the different township supervisors are taking into account beyond the immediate ramifications of the increase in (insurance) premiums," Warren Firefighters' Union President Andy Moore said. "It's a much more complex issue and I would hope they take into consideration more than just what the insurance companies say. The way these compensation companies treat firefighters who get sick is truly unconscionable. I think it would be a true disservice to firefighter not to keep this law."
Act 46, better known as the Firefighter Presumption Act, requires workers' compensation providers to compensate firefighters for costs of health care related to cancer diagnoses in cases where a firefighter has been exposed to carcinogens in the line of duty.
Under the law, the cancer is presumed to have been caused by the firefighting-related exposure to carcinogens. However, according to Moore, there are stipulations.
A firefighter must have served four or more continuous years in firefighting duties and establish direct exposure to one of a list of carcinogens. The firefighter must have passed a physical examination which found no indications of the cancer prior to entering a claim or engaging in firefighting duties.
The presumption can be contested and rebutted by substantial, competent evidence showing the cancer was not caused by firefighting.
There is also a time limit for claims based on the date at which a claimant ceased firefighting activities.
"It wasn't so every person who ever put on gear can go, 'I got cancer I want freebies'," Moore said. "A lot of the guys in the past, that started in say, the '70s, the equipment was not up to today's standards. Older firefighters didn't have self-contained breathing apparatus. A lot of the chemicals these guys come in contact with you don't have to inhale, you just have to be downwind. It can be absorbed through the skin."
Moore noted he feels members of municipal government need all the information to make informed decisions on workers' compensation issues.
"It think it's something the municipalities need to get together and tell the compensation companies, 'Enough is enough,'," Moore said. "They're the compensation company's customers. I would welcome the opportunity to speak with the COG (Council of Governments). I would gladly sit down with them. The more information they have the better."