GREENSBORO, N.C. — North Carolina firefighters remain cautiously optimistic as two Senate Republicans introduced bill to provide financial assistance for cancer treatment.
For the past several years, firefighters across the state have been fighting to get presumptive cancer coverage expanded for themselves and their colleagues.
While other states in the U.S. have some sort of cancer coverage, North Carolina does not. In fact, it is the only state in the country to not have some sort of presumptive cancer coverage for these first responders.
“First in flight, last in helping firefighters,” is how Greensboro Firefighters Union President Dave Coker describes the fight.
Senate Bill 472 was introduced on April 1, by Senator Todd Johnson and Senate Majority Whip Jim Perry.
The bill, as written, would see that a trust worth $25,000 would be set aside for North Carolina firefighters. If a firefighter is diagnosed with one of seven common occupationally-related cancers found in firefighters, they will receive that trust upfront to cover the cost of medical expenses.
In order to qualify, a firefighters must have “a minimal of five years of service; you can’t have been an occupation, five years prior that also had a significant cause for these cancers, and you cannot have a history of tobacco use.”
Firefighters, like Coker, are cautiously optimistic, despite previous bills having failed in the past.
He explained, “now I think we can have a subsidized discussion on how this bill works. We hopefully have removed the obstacles that the Senate found and took issue with.”
SB 472 is structured differently than previous bills. For example, the previous attempts have been able to pass the House, but die in Senate committee, and have not been able to secure large support from Republican Senators.
SB 472 was introduced in the Senate and was drafted and co-sponsored by Republicans.
The hope is that more Republicans will support this bill than in the past because it involves a trust as a means of funds and not an expansion of health benefits for firefighters.
Jamie Burgess, a Greensboro firefighter, told FOX8 that, “it’s a bright moment, but we’re still not there yet.”
In January, FOX8 spoke with Burgess about his involvement in lobbying for support of some sort of bill for the past few years.
Since the writing of our last article in January, Burgess has lost another firefighter brother to cancer.
“Even while he was battling cancer himself, he was going to the general assembly. If this bill were to be successful, this is our way of carrying on their legacy and honor those who have passed away from cancer.”
Greensboro firefighters are scheduled to travel to Raleigh in the first few weeks of May to speak with Senators and get more support to pass the bill once voting begins.