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Firefighters will rally in Lansing, pushing for promised cancer coverage


Firefighters will rally in Lansing on Tuesday as they push for cancer coverage that lawmakers promised them more than a year ago – but never delivered.

In 2014, the legislature created a worker’s comp fund for firefighters who get job-related cancer. Governor Snyder signed it in January 2015, noting there was still no funding designated for the fund, and instructing lawmakers to find money for it.

But more than a year later, there’s still no money. So firefighters are getting cancer, thinking they’re covered, only to find out they’re not.

Mark Docherty, president of the Michigan Professional Firefighters Union, says 8 of his firefighters have developed cancer since the legislature created the fund in December 2014.  

“They’ve not been taken care of by a law that was supposed to have taken care of them,” he says, adding that many of the firefighters are attending the rally in support of those firefighters, one of whom died recently. “And it’s also with the intention to call on the legislature to actually fund this.”

There’s a new bill in the state senate to put $3 million in the first responder’s fund this year. But Docherty says, they’ve learned the hard way that’s no guarantee.

“There’s so many challenges around the state, that you know, if we don’t keep attention to it, it will get lost,” he says. “And that’s what I think happened in the last year. I don't truly think the legislature ever intended on passing a law to not fund it. But the problem is, there's so many other things out there. So we gotta make sure it gets done,and take care of our guys.”

Several studies say firefighters have a significantly higher risk of getting certain cancers. More than half of all states already provide some kind of cancer coverage, including worker’s comp, for firefighters. 

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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