Pennsylvania House Unanimously Approves Bill to Classify Hepatitis C as Occupational Illness for Public-Safety Workers
The Pennsylvania House yesterday unanimously approved a bill that would make hepatitis C an occupational illness for public-safety workers, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Under the bill, if a police officer, firefighter or prison guard is diagnosed with hepatitis C, "it will be presumed that the virus was contracted on the job," making it easier for these workers to obtain worker's compensation benefits. The bill, as written by sponsor and House Majority Leader John Perzel (R), would have only applied to police officers, but Perzel accepted amendments that included paid and volunteer firefighters and correctional officers. The measure also includes some state psychiatric workers. The bill was drafted in response to the "pleas" of 62 firefighters who are infected with hepatitis C (Wiggins, Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/5). The bill now goes to the Senate, which is not expected to hear the bill until fall (Laker, Philadelphia Daily News. However, Perzel said he plans speak to Senate Majority Leader David Brightbill (R) to try to push the bill through before summer recess begins at the end of June. Some Philadelphia officials are still concerned with the potential costs associated with the bill, as the city has estimated that hepatitis C-related worker's compensation for firefighters alone could cost $10 million over five years. Three states -- Arizona, Florida and New York -- have implemented laws providing emergency workers and law enforcement officers with worker's compensation benefits for hepatitis C, and eight states offer the benefit for firefighters (Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/5).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.