GREENSBORO, NC – North Carolina firefighters remain cautiously optimistic as two Senate Republicans introduced a bill to provide financial assistance for cancer treatment.
In recent years, firefighters across the state have fought for extensive presumptive cancer coverage for themselves and their colleagues.
While other states in the United States have some sort of cancer coverage, North Carolina does not. In fact, it’s the only state in the country that doesn’t have some sort of alleged cancer coverage for these first responders.
“The first in the air, the last helping the 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 Majority Senate Whip Jim Perry.
The bill, as drafted, would see a trust worth $ 25,000 reserved for North Carolina firefighters. If a firefighter is diagnosed with one of the seven common occupational cancers found in firefighters, they will be given that trust upfront to cover medical bills.
To be eligible, a firefighter must have “a minimum of five years of service; you cannot have worked in a profession five years ago that also had a major cause of these cancers, and you cannot have a history of smoking. “
Firefighters, like Coker, are cautiously optimistic, although previous bills have failed in the past.
He explained, “Now I think we can have a subsidized discussion on how this bill works. We hope that we have removed the obstacles that the Senate discovered and opposed.
SB 472 is structured differently from previous invoices. For example, previous attempts have been able to pass the House, but die in Senate committee, and have not been able to gain broad support from Republican senators.
SB 472 was introduced to 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 funding and not an expansion of health benefits for firefighters.
Jamie Burgess, a firefighter from Greensboro, told FOX8 “It’s a bright moment, but we’re still not there yet.
In January, FOX8 spoke to Burgess about his involvement in lobbying to support some sort of bill over the last few years.
Since writing our last article in January, Burgess has lost another firefighter brother to cancer.
“Even though he was fighting cancer himself, he went to the general assembly. If this bill is successful it is our way of carrying on their legacy and honoring those who have died of cancer.
Greensboro firefighters are due to travel to Raleigh in the first weeks of May to speak to senators and gain more support to pass the bill once the vote begins.
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