Cities in Baldwin County are adding cancer policies for firefighters to meet the requirements signed into law by Gov. Kay Ivey in May.
“The First Responders Benefits Program, in conjunction with Hartford Insurance Company, was chosen to deliver this valuable coverage to our first responders,” Gulf Shores Deputy Fire Chief Keith Martin said. “The Alabama League of Municipalities has endorsed this program.”
Foley, Orange Beach and Spanish Fort, among others, have recently passed resolutions funding the new coverage for firefighters in those cities as well.
“The Legislature unanimously passed a bill this last session that now requires all municipalities in the state of Alabama to cover their career firefighters or their paid firefighters with a policy,” Foley Fire Chief Joey Darby said. “It’s really a couple of requirements. One, that policy be in effect to cover a minimum of 20 named cancers they specified. And also to cover disability should that firefighter be out of work during treatment.”
The basic cancer coverage plan would include bladder, blood, brain, breast, cervical, esophageal, intestinal, kidney, lymphatic, lung, prostate, rectum, respiratory tract, skin, testicular and thyroid cancer, leukemia, multiple myeloma, Hodgkin’s lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Foley opted for the enhanced plan, which includes all cancers for both critical illness coverage and long-term disability. The pricing included in the proposal reflects the total rate for both critical illness and long-term disability.
“For me, in my case, my City Council was supportive,” Darby said. “I’m seeing a lot of that around the state already, councils being supportive of covering to the enhanced level so that there’s no question or debate about what type of cancer is or isn’t covered. Also, in many cases, including my case in Foley, where municipalities still have volunteers, we’re covering those volunteers just as we do our paid employees.”
For the first year, the new coverage will cost Foley about $10,000 but Darby said that cost will increase after some current employees reach their first anniversary. A firefighter must be employed for a year before becoming eligible for the new coverage.
In Gulf Shores, Martin said it will cost just under $9,000 to offer the policy to all full-time firefighters. His city does not have any volunteer firefighters.
The effort began with two groups representing local governments and firefighters, Darby said. He said the materials used to build homes and furnishings can release dangerous chemicals during a fire and crews are exposed to that risk.
“Several fire service organizations and specifically the Alabama Association of Fire Chiefs had tried to focus on a cancer benefit for a while now,” Darby said. “Primarily because work-comp carriers refused to cover cancer as a work-related illness or injury for firefighters. Cases were becoming more and more prevalent because of more dangerous hazards that we face today than we’ve ever seen in the past.”
Another prime supporter, Darby said, was the Alabama League of Municipalities.
“Afterward they’ve been the ones to really put this before the insurance providers to get these packages ready,” Darby said.
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