PHOENIX, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - “You’re allowing wives to grow old with their spouses, you're allowing daughters to be walked down the aisle,” said Glendale Fire Captain Kevin Thompson, as he made an emotional plea before lawmakers during an Ad Hoc Committee meeting at the Arizona State Senate.
You may remember Thompson’s story. He was diagnosed with a work-related cancer earlier this year.
“Just the nature of the things that burn nowadays, we are exposed to more toxic chemicals than ever before,” said Thompson.
Even though state law mandates his type of cancer be 100% covered by insurance, his claim was still denied.
That decision has since been reversed.
Now, some of our elected leaders are looking into whether a law needs to change to prevent that from happening again.
State lawmakers say they know of nine Arizona firefighters who have had their insurance claims for work-related cancer denied.
One of them, retired Goodyear Firefighter Austin Peck, has since passed away.
“There are more of us out there who are being denied, and there will be more of us,” said Thompson.
Now, Senator Paul Boyer, Committee Chair, says he is getting ready to draft a new bill.
“The two words that hang up insurance companies and their high priced attorneys is a 'reasonable relation.' So they're acting as if the presumption doesn't exist. They're still putting the burden of proof on the firefighter to prove what fire caused their cancer,” said Boyer. “When what we voted on, what we thought we were voting on, was a true presumption. Meaning if you're a firefighter, 5 years on the job in hazardous duty, and you get one of these cancers, then you're covered.”
He’s considering proposing several changes, including exploring better decontamination practices, regularly screening firefighters for early signs of cancer, and closing the loophole that almost cost Thompson his savings and possibly even his life.
“It's the most important thing that I can think of,” said Boyer.
“If we can prevent one person from going through this then we've won. We’ve done a good job,” said Thompson.
The State Senate comes back in session in January. Boyer hopes to have the bill drafted and ready to present by then.