Barrar Leads Examination of Cancellations of Workers’ Compensation Policies for Firefighters
11/14/2012
HARRISBURG – The House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, led by Majority Chairman Rep. Stephen E. Barrar (R-Chester/Delaware), today held a public hearing to examine incidents of insurance companies dropping volunteer firefighters’ workers’ compensation coverage since the enactment of Act 46 of 2011, which allows a firefighter to receive workers’ compensation benefits if he or she develops cancer and can establish direct exposure to certain carcinogens during fire or hazmat incidents.

“The General Assembly approved Act 46 because we want to ensure that we are appropriately compensating firefighters who develop cancer as a result of their service to our communities,” said Barrar. “The insurance industry was involved in the drafting of Act 46 and was given a voice in the process. Never during the public hearings, meetings and discussions regarding this legislation did the industry indicate that it would drop coverage for our firefighters.”



In most cases, volunteer firefighters are covered under the workers’ compensation policies of the municipalities they serve. If an insurance company drops the policy for firefighters, coverage is still available under the State Workers’ Insurance Fund (SWIF).

The committee heard testimony from Elizabeth Crum, deputy secretary for compensation and insurance with the Department of Labor and Industry; Robert Anspach, director of insurance services with PennPRIME and the Pennsylvania Municipal League; Geoffrey Beauchamp, general counsel for the Delaware Valley Workers’ Compensation Trust and Delaware Valley Municipal Management Association; Patrick Harvey, legal counsel for PennPRIME; R. Scott Agar, principal consultant with Insurance Buyers’ Council; Elam Herr, assistant executive director for the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors; Ed Troxell, director of government affairs with the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs; and Don Konkle, executive director of the Pennsylvania Fire and Emergency Services Institute.

Beauchamp testified about the risk involved in insuring firefighters under Act 46 and the need for insurers to maintain solvency. He pointed to numerous cases of Philadelphia firefighters filing claims for prostate cancer diagnoses, which he said could be more likely due to age than to exposure to carcinogens during firefighting.

Beauchamp recommended that the law be amended to include only those cancers diagnosed after the bill was signed into law, limiting the types of cancer covered by the law, requiring claimants to present comprehensive medical testimony establishing a well-founded link between the cancer and the exposure during firefighting, excluding exposure to carcinogens while not involved in firefighting, limiting the medical costs to those not covered by health insurance, and limiting subrogation claims by health insurance companies.

Anspach talked about not only the costs involved in the covered claims, but also legal costs and the unknowns involved in these costs. He made similar recommendations to Beauchamp and also advocated giving municipalities greater control of fire companies and only covering cancers scientifically linked to firefighting.

Konkle urged the consideration of the value of Pennsylvania’s volunteer firefighting service along with that of the risk.

“When examining the cost of providing fire protection, we must also examine the value provided by fire departments,” said Konkle. “The Pennsylvania fire service provides an estimated $6 billion annually in avoided cost to our local governments. Additionally, the cost of homeowners insurance is reduced because of the quality of our fire departments.”

Herr expressed his organization’s support of the law when it was adopted in 2011 and also asked the Legislature to revisit the measure next session to provide clarity on several issues, including a shortened look-back period.

“The committee will continue to assess this situation as it unfolds and will consider how we can improve the law to provide the best fire protection to our citizens, as well as compensating those men and women who risk their lives to safeguard our communities if they develop cancer as a result,” said Barrar.

More information about Barrar and his legislative priorities is available at www.SteveBarrar.com and www.Facebook.com/RepBarrar.

State Representative Steve Barrar
160th District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Nicole Wamsley
nwamsley@pahousegop.com
717.783.8063
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