After a 16-year battle, a bill concerning cancer coverage for Florida’s firefighters is heading to the Governor’s desk.
Even though firefighters receive health insurance, cancer coverage is not part of the policy.
Jay Post worked as a firefighter in Brevard County for 33 years before found out he had throat cancer in 2017.
“Cancer victims in the fire service are becoming younger and younger and younger. I didn’t get mine until I was 67 years old. There are now guys getting cancer in their late 30’s and 40’s," said Post.
While firefighters work in a hazardous occupation, some are not informed of other risks.
“The first was melanoma cancer; it was going into a stage 4. I had to be rushed into emergency surgery. She said I had about another 6 months I would’ve been terminal,” said Dwayne McKeaver who did not know the dangers when taking the job in 2003 and has been fighting cancer for years.
And Representative Matt Willhite (D- Palm Beach) who is a firefighter says he’s worried he’ll become another statistic.
“But members never once did they tell me 2 out of every 3 firefighters today in the state of Florida and this country will be diagnosed with cancer. 2 out of every 3 firefighters in the state of Florida. We have 21,000 professional firefighters here in the state of Florida imagine that, 14,000 of them may have some form of cancer,” said Willhite.
Chief Financial Officer and Fire Marshall Jimmy Patronis and Senator Anitere Flores (R-Miami) have been helped push the bill through the process.
Flores is the one who filed the bill.
“If a firefighter gets a certain types of cancer, bills that have been directly linked to their line of work. If they get that type of cancer while they are working on the job, then their out of pockets expensive for deductibles and other things like that will be covered by their employer,” said Flores.
The repercussions are just beginning for the first responders. Patronis says the wellbeing of firefighters should be the primary focus.
“As they can cover all different levels of service when it comes to firefighters services. That’s not just good for the profession it’s good for the recruitment, it helps people realize that this is a profession they can go in that is going to give them a piece of mind, protect them, and also get their family comfort that their loved ones have some piece of mind and safety,” said Patronis.
The bill’s effective date is set for June. The bill heads to Governor Ron DeSantis desk where he can sign it, veto it, or let it pass without a signature.