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Rhode Island lawmakers pass firefighter cancer presumption bill

Posted On: Jul. 17, 2020 12:52 PM CST

Rhode Island capitol

Rhode Island lawmakers passed two bills Thursday that make changes to the state’s workers compensation system, one of which would assume that firefighters diagnosed with cancer acquired it on the job.

S.B. 2302, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Frank Lombardi, passed the House unanimously Thursday and passed the Senate on Monday in 32-3 vote. The bill would amend the state’s cancer benefits for firefighters to conclusively determine that firefighters diagnosed with any type of cancer acquired that occupational disease in the course and scope of their employment.

The conclusive presumption would not apply to firefighters on the job less than two years or those who were discovered to have cancer in a physical examination before hiring. It would also not apply if the firefighter regularly or habitually used tobacco products five years prior to the cancer diagnosis.

The law would apply retroactively to cancer-related injuries and disabilities pending on or after the effective date of the law.

S.B. 2915, which unanimously passed the state’s Senate and House on Monday and Thursday, respectively, would slightly alter the process by which workers of uninsured employers can seek benefits.

The change would add language providing workers entitled to benefits from the uninsured protection fund the ability to recover benefits for medical expenses, loss of function and disfigurement from their uninsured employer. The bill also states that the fund may be entitled to a credit if an injured worker later receives funds from their uninsured employer.

The legislation also modifies the timeline for qualified physicians to provide itemized bills for services to insurers to 10 weeks from six, and from the date of injury to 10 weeks from 12 for subsequent bills until maximum medical improvement is reached.

Both legislative bills would go into effect immediately if signed into law.