Arizona firefighters gathered outside the state Capitol on Tuesday to call for an expansion of health-care coverage to treat conditions that could arise later in life.
Firefighters have been working with Arizona legislators for several months to pass House Bill 2161 and House Bill 2410, both of which would expand workers’ compensation insurance coverage for first responders.
HB 2161 would expand the types of cancer that would be covered. HB 2410 would expand the coverage for cardiac-related issues for firefighters.
The House of Representatives passed both bills two months ago with overwhelming support, said Bryan Jeffries, president of the Professional Firefighters of Arizona.
Now, the bills are awaiting a final vote in the Senate, Jeffries said.
“We’ve educated lawmakers, we’ve flown in experts on our personal expenses, we’ve worked patiently with the stakeholders process requested by leadership, we’ve been there to testify at committee hearings,” Jeffries said. “They have passed the necessary Senate committees, all we’re asking for now is an up or down vote in the Senate.”
Numerous pairs of firefighter boots were laid on the Capitol lawn during Tuesday’s gathering. Jeffries said the boots represent firefighters who lost their lives with their boots off, not in a blaze.
“These men and women died of horrible diseases away from the job in hospital beds and in hospice care,” said Jeffries, adding that many also died leaving their families with financial struggles.
State Reps. Paul Boyer, R-Phoenix, and T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge, joined the firefighters in calling for the bills’ passage.
“On someone’s worse day, these firefighters were there for them, and the very least we can do is protect them in their time of need,” Boyer said. “More firefighters have died with their boots off than their boots on, and the least that we’re asking is just to get an up or down vote.”
Shope noted that the bills passed in the House with support from both Republicans and Democrats.
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