GOP To Firefighters Suffering From Cancer: "It's Your Fault"
Majority eliminated promised protections for first responders and families

Democratic members of the House Insurance Committee today expressed outrage regarding the latest version of the state workers’ compensation budget, House Bill 27, which adds new barriers to firefighters and their families seeking state assistance for work-related injuries, illnesses and death.

Today’s proposed restrictions follow the House’s December 2016 passage of extended workers’ compensation protections for firefighters who developed cancer as a result of work conditions. The bill creates a condition in which courts presumes the firefighter didn't wear their protective gear correctly, resulting in the medical condition or cancer. 

“This is a direct attack on our first responders, who put themselves in harm’s way every day to save lives,” said the lead Democrat on the House Insurance Committee, state Rep. John Boccieri (D-Poland). “It is horrifying to think that some Republican lawmakers would make it harder for our first responders and their families to get the help they need, when they need it.”

In committee, Democratic lawmakers said the attack on first responders seeking medical coverage will not only hurt first responders and their families, but it will increase healthcare costs as hospitals and doctors foot the bill for care that would otherwise be covered by the workers’ compensation system.

“When our first responders say goodbye to their families before heading to work, it’s with the thought and knowledge that they are more likely than most to not return home,” said Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown). “Today’s new attacks just show how out of touch Republican lawmakers are with the reality that working people face every day.”

The new restrictions also halve the amount of time workers currently have to file a claim, something Boccieri says could “economically destabilize thousands of Ohio families.”

“As a former mayor and the son of a firefighter, I know firsthand what it means when mothers and fathers put their lives on the line to keep other families safe day-in and day-out,” said Rep. Michael O’Brien (D-Warren). “We owe our everyday heroes and communities more than what’s been coming out of Columbus lately.”

Today’s planned committee vote for the bill was pushed back to next week by Republicans after the new restrictions garnered considerable criticism. Democratic lawmakers will propose changes to the bill removing the new restrictions.

“Putting up barriers for our first responders to get the medical help they need isn’t just thoughtless – it’s dangerous,” said Rep. Glenn Holmes (D-McDonald), a member of the House Insurance Committee. “Families and individuals could face a lifetime of economic uncertainty just because politicians in Columbus won’t do the right thing.”

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