DORAL, Fla. - Firefighters have been working for years to get a bill passed that would provide health benefits for those in their profession who are diagnosed with cancer. Despite enormous obstacles, they did.
Elected officials joined Miami-Dade Fire Rescue personnel Friday morning to celebrate a bill Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law last week.
"I share with you the real deal," Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis said, holding a copy of the bill in his hand.
The bill requires full health insurance coverage for firefighters diagnosed with cancer, including disability and death benefits.
"It took a lot of people to get this done," state Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, said.
Firefighters would also receive a one-time payment of $25,000 after being diagnosed.
"If this profession harms you or harms your life, the state of Florida is obligated to make right and make sure that we make your life better," Patronis said.
Firefighters are exposed to smoke, asbestos and dangerous chemicals that can cause long-term health problems.
"Right now cancer amongst our firefighters is 15% higher than the rest of the general population," Patronis said.
Some lawmakers believe it was the emotional testimony from firefighters and their families about the toll of cancer that convinced the Florida Legislature to get the bill passed.
"You all did it because you knew that you couldn't let your loved ones death be in vain," Flores said.
The president of the union representing Miami-Dade firefighters estimates the bill will cost less than $5 million a year. The law takes effect July 1.
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