Insurers are pulling workers' compensation coverage from cash-strapped municipalities in response to a 2011 law linking firefighting with increased cancer risks.
Dubbed the Firefighters Cancer Presumption Act, Act 46 of 2011 recognizes every form of cancer found in a firefighter as a work-related illness. The onus to prove otherwise is on the municipality. Before the law, a claim could be filed going back 300 weeks. The law doubled that to 600 weeks.
"Because of the financial risk to the companies suddenly having all these claims, they are choosing not to do the workers' compensation," Smith said.Many are choosing the State Workers' Insurance Fund for firefighters workers' compensation because it is deemed the most cost-effective way to provide the state-mandated coverage. Using SWIF for firefighter coverage allowed Clarks Summit to keep MRM coverage for everything else, Kehoe said.
Lawmakers who support the law have balked at talk of making modifications. "I support the measure in its entirety and would not support tweaks to the statute that protects our paid and volunteer firefighters who in turn protect our communities," said Rep. Kevin Haggerty, D-112, Dunmore. "To say that those who are charged with protecting public safety are too costly for insurance carriers is an insult; especially those who volunteer to keep our families and communities safe and in doing so, have contracted cancer."
Don Konkle, executive director of the Pennsylvania Fire and Emergency Services Institute, said lawmakers have a responsibility to look out for firefighters. "We believe that protecting firefighters from financial ruin for doing their job is just good policy," he said.