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Arizona bills closing workers’ comp loopholes for firefighters nears last step

(Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

PHOENIX – Arizona firefighters for several years have filled testimony rooms at the State Capitol sharing their cancer battles and experiences of workers’ compensation denial.

But that tireless fight could soon come to a close.

There are two mirrored bills this legislative session that are running in both the Arizona House and Senate that could solve the problem firefighters continue to face.

State Sen. Paul Boyer is a sponsor of one of them.

He introduced the original presumptive cancer legislation back in 2017, which he believes has been exploited as some cities and insurance companies continue to ask a question that is impossible for a firefighter to answer.

That question being – which fire throughout your career gave you cancer?

Both Boyer’s bill in the senate and state Rep. Kevin Payne’s bill in the house would no longer allow that question to be asked.

Both pieces of legislation are identical. The idea of running two mirrored bills is to get the legislation to Gov. Doug Ducey’s desk in the fastest way possible.

Whichever bill gets there first is expected to be the bill that is signed into law.

“What this will do is tighten up the language to make sure that firefighters do get covered,” Boyer told KTAR News 92.3 FM.

Boyer’s version passed out of the Senate 22-8. Payne’s bill passed 60-0 in the House. Both bills are in their final hearings and are expected to head to Ducey’s desk soon.

During an interview from 2019 within KTAR News 92.3 FM’s special series “Fighting Fires and Cancer,” Ducey said stories of firefighters getting denied healthcare coverage “angered him”.

Ducey added, “there’s a law for a reason” and said the loopholes needed to be addressed.

The International Association of Firefighters says cancer is now the leading cause of death among firefighters.

While firefighters 30 years ago were most often diagnosed with asbestos-related cancers, the cancers today are more often leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma.

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