GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA)- A bill that would give extra benefits to firefighters with cancer and their families passed the South Carolina Senate Wednesday. The Firefighter Cancer Health Care Benefit Plan is now set to go to the South Carolina House of Representatives.
Studies show firefighters face a higher risk of cancer. According to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, burning buildings can release toxic chemicals that can leader to cancer.
Longtime firefighter Tracy Williams, who is the assistant fire chief at the Westview-Fairforest Fire Department, was diagnosed with stage three melanoma in 2009. He’s been cancer-free for nearly 11 years now, but he said it forced him to take time off work and cost him around $10,000 or $15,000, even with insurance.
If the Firefighter Cancer Health Care Benefit Plan passes the South Carolina House and is signed by the governor, it will help lighten the financial load.
“It’s an emotional roller coaster when you’re told that you have cancer anyway because you’re first thinking about yourself and your family, your department,” Williams said.
The bill proposes giving firefighters, both full time and volunteers, a $20,000 lump sum when they’re diagnosed with cancer, and up to $12,000 a year to reimburse them for out of pocket medical costs. The bill would also give $75,000 to the family of firefighters who die of cancer.
Gaffney Fire Chief Jamie Caggiano has been pushing for the bill with the South Carolina State Firefighters’ Association.
“There was a group of us that came together and knew that cancer was a problem,” Caggiano said. “We’ve been trying for several years to get a bill passed that would benefit firefighters throughout the state.”
He said workman’s comp dosen’t typically cover cancer diagnoses, but paying out benefits for those with cancer via a supplemental insurance policy, as the bill proposes, would make things easier for those who keep us all safe.
The bill is now set to go to the South Carolina House of Representatives, which is scheduled to reconvene in September.