Apr 29, 2019

How the Firefighter Cancer Benefit Program Differs from Traditional Workers’ Compensation

In the field of first response, and especially among firefighters, cancer is considered to be an occupational hazard.

The Georgia General Assembly passed House Bill (HB) 146 in 2017, legally requiring fire departments to issue benefits to their employees with cancer. Defining cancer as an occupational hazard provides protections for those who have developed the disease as a result of serving as a firefighter.

What Cancers are Considered an Occupational Disease for Firefighters in Georgia?

Smoke inhalation is one of the most prominent risks of fighting fires, but responders can also be exposed to a variety of carcinogenic chemicals while on the job.

HB 146 specifies that fire departments must provide insurance that will cover the medical expenses associated with lung and respiratory tract cancer, as well as cancers of the bladder, blood (including leukemia), brain, breast, cervix, esophagus, intestine, kidney, lymphatic system, prostate, rectum, skin, testicles, and thyroid. The bill specifies that its’ definition of cancer also includes multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Lump-Sum Payments for Firefighters with Cancer

The benefits provided by Georgia’s firefighter cancer program do include the traditional long-term disability model, but provides for critical illness insurance as well.

Critical illness insurance differs from long-term disability insurance because it is a lump-sum payment, rather than a continuous partial income payment.

The benefit amount depends on the severity of the cancer, and the treatment needed. A $25,000 payment is issued to patients whose cancer has spread or is terminal. Firefighters with “malignant melanomas,” cancer “in situ” (i.e. cancer that has not spread), prostate cancer that requires radial prostatectomy treatment, or “malignant tumors which are treated by endoscopic procedures alone” are entitled to a lump sum of $6,250, as defined in HB 146.

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