Sen. Bailey introduces bill to improve health care coverage for first responders

Posted: January 24, 2024 | Senator Bailey

AUGUSTA – On Tuesday, Sen. Donna Bailey, D-Saco, introduced a bill to improve access to preventive health screenings for EMS providers, firefighters, and police officers. The Legislature’s Health Coverage, Insurance, and Financial Services Committee conducted a public hearing for LD 444, “An Act to Designate First Responders and Other Public Safety Professionals as a Special Risk Population for the Purposes of Improving Insurance Coverage for the Effects of Trauma.”

“The repeated exposure to traumatic events is a known factor in shortening the life expectancy of our first responders,” said Sen. Bailey. “These brave individuals face not only physical challenges but also significant mental and emotional burdens as they navigate the aftermath of emergencies. This critical initiative seeks to ensure that medical professionals consider the unique risk factors associated with the profession when recommending and conducting preventive screenings — and that insurance companies cover these screenings.”

Currently, the preventive health screenings that are necessary to catch the early onset of health impacts related to first responder risks are not provided (or covered) without a clear presenting symptom. For example, most insurances do not cover negative screenings for cancer except in certain circumstances, while some have age-related triggers like mammograms or screenings for colon cancer. LD 444 would designate first responders as a special risk group, making sure that all first responders are evaluated for their real risks regardless of the size or capacity of the agency they work for, employment status, or insurance carrier. 

On average, the lifespan of a firefighter is 10 years less than the lifespan of a non-firefighter. Firefighters are often exposed to toxic chemicals that can result in serious health conditions. According to the CDC, cancer is the leading cause of death among firefighters. Firefighters are at higher risk for some cancers when compared to the general population.

The bill faces further action in committee.