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Missouri lawmakers to consider presumptions for first responders

Missouri capitol

Missouri lawmakers will be considering legislation that would provide workers compensation presumptions for first responders for heart disease, certain cancers, hypertension and various infectious diseases.

COVID-19 would be included under the “severe acute respiratory syndrome” category of infectious diseases.

H.B. 568, read for the first time Wednesday, states that diseases “shall be presumed to be an occupational disease if there is reasonable medical evidence” that the first responder “was free of such disease at the beginning of his or her employment” and states that “it shall be the duty of the employer … to provide such reasonable medical evidence.”

If the employer fails to produce such evidence, this first responder “shall have the benefit of the presumption regardless of the absence of reasonable medical evidence,” the bill states. 

The bill would also amend existing state law regarding peace officers and “psychological stress” as an occupational illness, expanding the definition to “mental disorders” and adding paid, volunteer and retired firefighters and emergency medical technicians to the list of qualified occupations.

The bill also contains provisions on timing, including that the first responder must have been working in their occupation for at least five years. As for retirees, it would only apply to those who have been retired less than 20 years.