By a unanimous vote in the Tennessee state House and Senate, HB 20, which designates Hepatitis C as a presumptive disease for fire fighters and EMS personnel, has passed.
“The passage of this bill is a huge victory for our members who put their health on the line every day to protect our citizens,” says Tennessee Professional Fire Fighters Association (TPFFA) President Eddie Mitchell. “Now if any of our members are exposed to this deadly disease, they can get the medical attention they need.”
Seven years ago, the TPFFA made passing an infectious disease presumptive law for fire fighters one of its top priorities. The state legislature was resistant to passing a law to encompass all infectious diseases, but agreed to make HIV presumptive in 2012.
The language that protects Tennessee fire fighters in case of HIV – and now Hepatitis C – requires fire fighters to have a baseline test documenting that they did not previously have the disease. After the baseline test, if a fire fighter tests positive for one of the diseases, it would then be presumed job-related and covered by workers compensation.
With the Republican Party holding a supermajority in both the House and Senate, HB 20 was not the easiest sell.
“They key to our success is our long-term political strategy,” says President Mitchell. “We endorse candidates, not political parties. Because of that, we have been able to build positive working relationships with both Republican and Democraticc state legislators.”
Governor Bill Haslam is expected to sign HB 20 in the coming days.