Sheehy: GOP Tells Firefighters With Cancer: "It's Your Fault"
Majority removed 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.

Wednesday’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. 

“The men and women who put on uniforms and go to work to keep us safe do so knowing they face a greater risk of not coming home to their families at the end of the day,” said Rep. Michael Sheehy (D-Oregon). “Now, politicians in Columbus are turning their backs on our first responders, and walking away from our responsibility to protect those who protect us.”

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.

“The original intent of HB 27 was to provide basic financial coverage for the firefighters who develop life-threatening illnesses such as cancer, chronic bronchitis and asthma that resulted from fighting fires that contain cancer-agents. The new challenges place the burden on the firefighters that they have to prove that they did in fact wear all protective equipment,” said Rep. Michael Ashford (D-Toledo). “It’s a sad day when Republicans tell our first responders it’s okay for you to place your life on the line, but if you develop any illness while on the job, now you have to prove that you were not at fault.”

The new restrictions also halve the amount of time workers currently have to file a claim, something Democratic lawmakers say would economically destabilize thousands of Ohio families.

Wednesday’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.

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