Colorado Senate Should Veto Hepatitis C Coverage Bill, Rocky Mountain News Editorial Says
The Colorado Senate should veto a bill that would change the circumstances in which public health and safety workers who contract hepatitis C are eligible for coverage, a Denver Rocky Mountain News editorial states. Under current rules, public health and safety workers such as firefighters, police officers and paramedics who are infected with hepatitis C must prove they contracted the virus on the job. Sen. Deanna Hanna (D) has sponsored a bill (SB 6) that would change these rules to say that if the public workers get a baseline test for the virus and can subsequently show exposure to hepatitis C, they are "presumed to have contracted it on the job," unless the employer can produce "clear and convincing" evidence disputing the claim. The editorial notes that the bill does not stipulate when workers must take the hepatitis C test. The editorial says that it is "common procedure" for public safety and health workers "or anyone who thinks they've been exposed to hepatitis C" on the job to get tested for the virus "immediately after the incident." If the test comes back negative for the virus, then the "subsequent development of the disease is generally proof enough for coverage," as hepatitis C does not show up in the blood for weeks or months after exposure. "[W]hy change the system?" the editorial asks, adding, "We see no reason for the bill except to set a precedent for many more 'rebuttable presumptions' that injuries or diseases occurred on the job. ... Today hepatitis C, tomorrow cancer and heart disease?" The editorial notes that the bill's language makes it "almost impossible" for employers to prove that a worker did not become infected with hepatitis C on the job. The editorial states that, except for black lung, there are currently "virtually no presumptions" that diseases were contracted on the job, and "that is as it should be." The editorial concludes, "The Senate should kill the bill, or at the very lease establish more specific rules as to when a baseline test must be given" (Denver Rocky Mountain News, 1/30).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.