1 June 2012 0 Comments

Liberty Index Part 11: Act 46 of 2011 – Worker’s Comp – Fire Fighter – Too Expensive for Gov. Ed Rendell

Act 46        Jul 7  2011  HB 797 Workers’ Compensation Act – cancer in the occupation of firefighter

 

TIER 3 AGAINST LIBERTY – ALL MEMBERS UNANIMOUS VOTE

   50 points will be subtracted from the ALL MEMBERS

This was a very expensive vote for the citizens of Pennsylvania.

This bill (then HB 1231) was vetoed by former Governor Ed Rendell because it was too expensive.  This is an unfunded mandate falling on the local taxpayer’s and fire companies. However, this legislation threatens public safety by raising the specter of cuts to essential services, or of forcing local governments to raise property taxes at the same time that Pennsylvania families are struggling economically.

Unlike most occupational injuries or diseases, HB 1231 would establish a presumption that any cancer diagnosis would be a result of firefighting activities – and the benefit provider, in this case local government, would bear the almost impossible burden to prove otherwise. The current printer number of HB 1231 would only permit employers to rebut the presumption of occupationally caused cancer by attempting to essentially prove a negative by requiring “proof of conduct or activities outside of firefighting duties that posed a substantial risk of causing the cancer.” This legislation also drastically differs from every other state cancer-presumption law, both because of this flawed rebuttable standard and because it would create the presumption for virtually every form of cancer when medical science simply does not know what causes most cancers.

While the total cost of this legislation is unknown – which is a problem in itself – experts predict that it would be significant, and the burden would be felt through tax hikes, cuts to local services, or both and, even worse, those cuts could be to firefighting activities. Municipal workers’ compensation insurance trusts predict drastic rate increases and question their ability to even underwrite coverage of occupational cancer claims under this flawed bill. If municipalities lose this coverage, it could create a catastrophic financial situation.

House Fiscal Note:  This legislation:

Designates cancer as an occupational disease;

Provides that the cancer must be caused by exposure to a known carcinogen recognized as a Group 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer;

Stipulates that occupational disease claims under this act can only be filed by firefighters:

1. Who have four or more years of continuous firefighting service.

2. Can establish direct exposure to a Group 1 carcinogen.

3. Successfully passed a physical examination prior to asserting a claim, or prior to engaging in firefighting duties, which revealed no evidence of cancer.

 

Provides that the presumption under the act may be rebutted by substantial competent evidence that shows that the firefighter’s cancer was not caused by the occupation of firefighting.

States that a claim made by a member of a volunteer fire company must be based on evidence of direct exposure to a Group 1 carcinogen as documented by a report filed to the Pennsylvania Fire Information Reporting System.

 UNFUNDED MANDATE-  No fiscal impact to the Commonwealth will result from the provisions in the bill. However, local government entities, trusts, municipalities, and those volunteer fire companies which are self-insured, may experience additional costs due to increased payments for benefits and the resultant potential increases in the entities’ workers’ compensation premiums.

 

 

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