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Firefighters face uphill battle for presumptive laws - KXLH.com | Helena, Montana

Firefighters face uphill battle for presumptive laws

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Firefighters have a greater chance of developing cancer, but in Montana they have to prove it happened on the job in order to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. Firefighters have a greater chance of developing cancer, but in Montana they have to prove it happened on the job in order to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.

Last week, MTN News brought you the story about why Montana does not have presumptive laws to help protect their firefighters.

After the 2013 Montana legislative session, firefighters requested  a study of the issues of establishing presumptive illness for firefighters.

Montana State Auditor Chief Counsel Jesse Laslovich said this resolution failed, so the state auditor's office decided to put together a informal working group with firefighters, work comp insurers, and cities and towns.

"This was to see if we reach a resolution. It was clear throughout that process, over the interim before the 2015 legislative session, that we were not going to reach a consensus on a bill. Our office just went forward with our own legislation in the 2015 session to establish a presumptive disease for firefighters," Laslovich said. 

Their first bill had around ten cancers being covered and work comp carriers would pay for the coverage. 

The work comp carriers opposed it and the bill was defeated by the committee and the senate.

"We went back to the drawing board and  said ok how can we minimize the opposition from the work comp carries.  We came up with a new piece of legation that would require the state to pay for an illness that a firefighter obtains as a result of their employment," Laslovich said.

The second version passed the committee but was killed when the finance committee was looking through it.

Laslovich says the process has been frustrating

"Regardless of what we did to try to allay concerns that people had, they would still come up with another excuses in opposition to the legislation. We changed the legislation so the work comp carries didn’t have to pay for it, instead the state would have to pay a sum of money. The work comp carries said well still we are opposed to this because it sets a bad president," Laslovich said. 

Laslovich says the presumptive laws is on the State Auditor's Office agenda for the 2017 legislation session. 

"Its a really frustrating concept because these are folks as you know and as I said during the legislation process, that we are asking to go into harm's way. Expose themselves to chemicals that none of us are exposed to. ultimately in many instances diagnosed with cancer as a result of the work and yet having the burned in Montana to tell the insurance company it was because of their work. With the insurance company saying no its wrong." >

Laslovich says the best thing for Montanans who want to see this legislation in place is to ask their legislatures why they are not helping those who protect us. 

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