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Bill Protecting Firefighters Heads to Governor
HB 200 Covers Workers' Comp for Disease Presumption


April 12, 2008

(SitNews) ­ The Alaska State Senate on Friday passed House Bill (HB) 200, legislation adding disease presumption to workers' compensation claims for volunteer and professional firefighters. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Nancy Dahlstrom, R-Eagle River/Anchorage, lays out specific qualifiers including, but not limited to, health exams, tenure and level of education that must be met to qualify for the presumption when filing a workers' comp claim.

"House Bill 200 establishes a presumption in the worker's compensation program to volunteer and professional firefighters for certain types of cancer and disease," said Rep. Dahlstrom. "It is a bill that some feel is long overdue for those who selflessly respond to the emergency and health needs of our communities across the state. During the course of a regular day on the job, firefighters are routinely exposed to dangerous chemicals such as asbestos and benzene, carcinogenic substances and carbon monoxide that such puts them at a higher risk for potential illness.

"Firefighters take great risks every day to protect our lives and the lives of our loved ones," added Rep. Dahlstrom. "A great deal of thought and compromise has been put into this legislation in order to create defined parameters of who qualifies for these benefits. These men and women deserve this consideration."

Senator Hollis French, D-Anchorage, introduced a companion bill in the Senate, and says he's glad that the Legislature has acted to grant this presumption to the men and women who choose to protect and serve. "Firefighters are exposed to chemicals, smoke and toxins while protecting Alaskans in the line of duty," said Sen. French. "This bill protects our firefighters if that exposure leads to illness later in life."

A total of 41 states have some type of presumptive coverage for firefighters without it becoming prohibitively expensive. For example, the State of California has 60,000 professional and volunteer firefighters. Actuarial studies show the extra coverage had "no impact" on California's retirement plan. Illinois showed an eight percent drop in claims for the six years after enacting presumptive coverage.

HB 200 will be transmitted to the Governor for her signature.



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Alaska State Legislature

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Ketchikan, Alaska