On May 4, 2017, former Governor Nathan Deal ceremoniously signed House Bill 146 (2017) into law with House Speaker David Ralston and the bill sponsor, Rep. Micah Gravley, in attendance. Known as the Firefighter Cancer Insurance bill, HB 146 (2017) requires all legally organized fire departments to provide and maintain specific cancer insurance coverages for all members of the fire department that meet the definition of “firefighter” as defined in O.C.G.A. 25-4-2. This includes all full-time, part-time and volunteer firefighters. The law became effective on January 1, 2018.
Subject to eligibility requirements, the law contains provisions for both a critical illness (lump sum) benefit and a disability (income replacement) benefit. The critical illness component requires payment of a lump sum benefit in the amount of either $25,000 or $6,250, depending on the severity of the cancer. This benefit is payable at the time of diagnosis.
The disability component of HB 146 requires a benefit equal to 60% of a firefighter’s total salary as a paid firefighter, or $5,000 per month, whichever is less. If the firefighter is a volunteer, the law requires payment of an income replacement benefit in the amount of $1,500 per month. The disability benefit may last up to 36 months and is subject to a six-month waiting period from the time when it is determined that a firefighter can no longer perform the duties of a firefighter.
Working together, the Association County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG) and the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) engaged insurance industry experts to create an insurance product to help local governments comply with the law. Through amendments to Chapter 85 of Title 36 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, HB 146 allows the ACCG-Interlocal Risk Management Agency (ACCG-IRMA) to provide coverage to counties and the GMA-Georgia Interlocal Risk Management Agency (GMA-GIRMA) to provide coverage to cities. Jointly, these programs are known as the Georgia Firefighters’ Cancer Benefit Program.
The Georgia Firefighters’ Cancer Benefit Program is designed to help bridge financial gaps firefighters encounter following a diagnosis of cancer. It helps with extra expense items such as deductibles, co-pays and out of network treatments or to offset loss of income. The benefits provide a little peace of mind so the firefighter can focus on healing. The program is fully insured, affordable and satisfies all obligations of HB 146. It is administered by ACCG and GMA and is backed by Hartford Life and Accident Insurance Company (A.M. Best rating of A(Excellent)).