Pennsylvania House Rejects Senate Changes to Hepatitis Bill for Emergency Response Workers
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives yesterday voted unanimously to reject the state Senate's version of a bill that would allow rescue workers infected with hepatitis C to collect disability benefits, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The Senate version would have made it more difficult for firefighters, paramedics, police officers and other emergency responders to qualify for such benefits. Under the original House-passed bill, hepatitis C would be classified as a "job-related illness" for emergency response workers, who would be "presumed" to have contracted the virus on the job if they fell sick. However, the Senate voted last week to amend the bill to give employers several ways to challenge the presumption clause. The House voted to remove provisions that would have allowed employers to deny emergency workers benefits if an employee did not report a possible exposure at the time of the incident or if a testing program did not reveal hepatitis exposure within a "reasonable time" after exposure. Members of the House elected to keep one Senate provision that allowed employers to deny benefits if a screening program determined that infection occurred before an employee's date of hire. "We can live with that," Tom O'Drain, president of the Philadelphia Firefighters Union, Local 22 of the International Association of Fire Fighters, said. "Our job should be to make it as easy as possible for firefighters, paramedics, police officers and other emergency responders to get treatment for hepatitis C, not place additional obstacles in front of them," House Majority Leader John Perzel (R), sponsor of the original bill, explained. The House then sent the bill back to the Senate for reconsideration later this week (Wiggins, Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/11).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.