NYS Exposed: If approved, who will foot the bill for cancer coverage for volunteer firefighters?

January 10, 2017 06:29 PM

Monday night, we asked why volunteer firefighters don't get the same cancer coverage as full-time firefighters in New York state?

It sounds like a great idea -- a no-brainer. Paid firefighters get this cancer coverage, why not volunteers? But how do we pay for it?

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In 2002, after 32 years of being a volunteer firefighter, Royer Pfersick was diagnosed with cancer.

"The only think I can think of that would be harmful would be exposure to the smokes and gases produced from firefighting," he said.

"I was scared that we had just gotten married and I was afraid I was going to lose him," says Diana Pfersick, his wife.

If Royer were a paid firefighter in New York, he would have been covered with special insurance. But because he was a volunteer in New York, the bills went to his family.

"I saw your story last night and I know Diana and Royer, I know them very well," says Honeoye Falls Mayor Rick Milne.

Milne is the mayor of Honeoye Falls, a village with about 50 volunteer firefighters. The story the mayor watched was on the bill in front of the state legislature that would extend special cancer coverage to volunteer firefighters. In his heart, Mayor Milne thinks its only fair. In his head, as the mayor of a small village, he wonders, "How do we pay for it?"

It's a good question with a tough answer because no matter who we call, no one can tell us what the cost is. Not even the folks in Ohio who just extended cancer coverage to volunteers.

The National Council on Compensation Insurance said it is "difficult to estimate the impact of a bill that extends coverage to volunteer firefighters. A study by the Connecticut State Government said the best way to keep the cost of cancer coverage down is "exclude volunteer firefighters."

The cost to towns and villages was the main reason why this bill in the state Assembly last year -- never even got a vote.

"We know that if this bill goes through, the state is going to pass that on as what I would consider an unfunded mandate to the municipalities," says Milne. "So how do we pay for that?"

The bill was re-introduced in the state Assembly Monday night.


Link to Assemblyman Bob Magnarelli, Chair of the NYS Assembly Local Government Committee

Link to Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, sponsor of the bill to extend cancer coverage to volunteer firefighters


Berkeley Brean

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