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Legislature may finally fund cancer coverage for Michigan firefighters


Firefighters could finally get the cancer coverage they were promised by state lawmakers more than a year ago.

The Legislature created a worker’s comp fund for firefighters in 2014. Governor Snyder signed the law in January 2015, telling lawmakers to find money for the fund.

More than half of all states already offer some kind of cancer coverage to firefighters, who have elevated risks for several cancers. 

But more than a year later, Michigan lawmakers still haven't put any money in that fund. Which means in the last year, firefighters got cancer and thought they were covered, only to have their worker's comp claims denied. 

Last month, Michigan Radio did a story about this, and now there's a new push in the media, and in Lansing, to finally put money in the state-created First Responder’s Fund.

State Senator Curtis Hertel, a Democrat, is introducing a new bill to put $3 million dollars in that fund this year.

"In 2014, everyone [in the legislature] wanted to stand up and say they were fighting for firefighters. But when it's come to funding it, for some reason, we can't get that actual appropriation,” he says.

"It's taken a really long time for something that we made a promise to do for our firefighters. There's no good reason why it's taken this long. There’s no good reason why it wasn’t in the Governor’s budget [this year.] It's time to stop talking and it's time to have action now.”

Hertel says he’s already receiving bipartisan support.

According to the state firefighter's union, at least 5 firefighters have been diagnosed with cancer in the last year – one of whom recently died. 

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.
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