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Ducey says firefighters being denied workers’ comp claims ‘angers’ him

PHOENIX — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey says the fact that Valley firefighters with cancer are being denied claims for workers’ compensation “angers” and “disappoints” him.

KTAR News 92.3 FM spoke to Ducey about the firefighters’ struggle to get coverage despite the presumptive cancer law he signed and later expanded in 2017 with HB 2161.  

“We’ve signed three bills in the last several years to address these types of situations, and when a firefighter has a health need that is in response to their work environment, this should be dealt with,” he said. 

Ducey said he believes something needs to be changed with the current handling of claims.  

“It sounds like there may be something, whether it’s bureaucracy or a loophole or something that needs to be fixed, he added. 

Before accusing anyone of breaking the law, the governor said he wants to dive into the details of how and why firefighters are getting denied.

However, he did say that he understands how insurance companies work for their own benefit. 

“I’ve seen what can happen when companies get involved and work to stop, or deny, or unnecessarily protect their own profitability,” Ducey said.

“This is a law that was passed for a reason, and it was so these firefighters would have access to these services.” 

Ducey said insurance companies should be responsive to the law, or “we should find new companies or new ways to do it.”

The governor denied having any personal conversations with city leaders regarding the denials. But his office is aware of the cases due to firefighters calling their Constituent Services Office. 

“We have firefighters reach out to us, so this is something we are definitely aware of,” Ducey said.

The governor told KTAR News he hopes to find “the fix” to this and bring peace of mind to firefighters.  

“We want to make certain whether the firefighters (are) in Chandler, Phoenix or any part of Arizona that this law is covering and protecting them,” he said. 

But what is the solution? 

I think there must be some unintended consequence in this law. There is something, some loophole. Or not.” Ducey said. 

It’s determining, is this on the insurance company or in the black letter of the law?

The governor hopes to get his general counsel to work with the attorney general as well as firefighters to bring that solution forward. 

As for a legislative change, the Ducey told KTAR News he wants to bring the intent of the 2017 amendment to life. 

“I want to make certain firefighters don’t have to fight for this on a daily basis,” Ducey said. “This is part of what it’s ensured in law.” 

The governor believes the next legislative session will be dedicated to finding a solution to these denials. He is confident that they can get this fixed.  

When asked what his message is to any city leaders who are denying firefighters benefits, he said, “Let’s take care of those who take care of us.” 

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