Pennsylvania Senate Passes Amended Version of Bill Providing Hepatitis C Coverage to Rescue Workers
The Pennsylvania Senate on Wednesday unanimously passed an amended version of a bill that would allow rescue workers infected with hepatitis C on the job to collect benefits, but the changes to the bill have angered some firefighters, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. In June, the state House passed a bill that classified hepatitis C as an occupational illness for police officers, firefighters, paramedics and prison guards. The bill stated that a person in one of these occupations could be eligible to collect disability benefits for hepatitis C because it would be "presumed" that he or she contracted the virus on the job. However, the state Senate's version of the bill does not include the presumption that a worker contracted hepatitis C on the job if an employer determines through screening that the employee contracted the virus before being hired or if the employee does not report an incident that could have resulted in exposure. Philadelphia firefighters have "vowed to fight" the changes to the bill, stating that the changes would limit their ability to collect disability benefits for hepatitis C. They want the bill changed back to the version passed by the House. State Sen. Vincent Fumo (D) said that senators did not have enough time to review the amendments to the bill and that some lawmakers would have voted differently had they been aware of the scope of the changes. Fumo plans to ask state Rep. John Perzel (R), sponsor of the original House bill, to remove the amendment when the House reconsiders the bill. But other state senators feel that it is important to quickly pass the bill because "an amended bill [is] better than no bill" (Wiggins/Soteropoulos, Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/7).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.