Georgia state assembly passes cancer coverage for firefighters, headed to Gov. Deal's desk

The Georgia state legislature pushed through a bill on Thursday mandating that legally organized fire departments pay cancer claims for firefighters that have been with the department for a year.

Governor Nathan Deal vetoed a similar bill last year, so the state lawmakers made some changes during this session.

Savannah Fire and Thunderbolt Fire firefighter, Kevin Morgan, battled testicular cancer last year.

"Within about an hour, hour and a half, they came back and he told me [the cancer test result] was not good," he said.

Morgan said he and his doctors looked at studies from the Centers for Disease Control and, based on those findings, came to the conclusion that it is possible the chemicals he was exposed to while fighting fires contributed to his cancer.

"There's overwhelming evidence that if you're a firefighter, there's a good chance you have a higher risk of getting some sort of cancer," Morgan said.

Fundraisers did help some with medical expenses, but he still had to pay more than $4,000 out of pocket for treatment.

Now, firefighters who develop cancer, just like him, may not have to shell out as much money up front for treatments in the future after state lawmakers pushed through more insurance coverage for them.

How the bill is written, legally organized fire departments must pay claims for firefighters who get cancer after serving 12 months with the department.

Departments then have two options.

They can write a check for at least a $25,000 lump sum if chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery is medically necessary, or if the firefighter has terminal cancer.

The other option is fire departments have to pay at least a $6,250 lump sum if there are signs of cancer and chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery is medically necessary, or if there are malignant tumors or malignant melanomas.

Morgan said this law would have prevented him from his financial suffering.

"I don't know if we would've needed it all for my circumstances, but for others I can say that would be a huge--that would be a huge help," he said.

He hopes Gov. Deal will think of the families this time around.

Since the state House and Senate passed the bill, it is headed to Gov. Deal's desk. If he signs the bill, or lets it sit there long enough, the law will take effect on Jan. 1, 2018.