Volunteer firefighters push Gov. Cuomo to sign cancer bill

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PORT WASHINGTON -

Volunteer firefighters and advocacy groups are pushing New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign a bill that will provide health coverage to volunteer firefighters battling cancer.

Former Port Washington Fire Department Chief Tom McDonough was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2013.

"I couldn't tell my children for about a month, so it was a little tough," he says.

McDonough, like many other volunteer firefighters, has health insurance through his paying job. They are also covered by workers' compensation if they are injured, but they have been fighting for years to get cancer coverage -- the same benefit already bestowed onto paid firefighters.

A bill unanimously passed by the state Senate and Assembly would require fire departments to provide their volunteers with insurance that covers several types of cancer related to their job. All the bill needs now is the governor's signature.

"The legislation, which was one of more than 500 that passed both houses in the last days of session, has not yet been delivered to the Governor's desk," a Cuomo spokesperson said in a statement Wednesday. "It remains under review by Counsel's Office."

Under the bill, each fire department, fire district or local municipality would essentially buy a GAP policy to cover each of its firefighters. The policy would provide a lump sum of $25,000 for a volunteer diagnosed with one of the cancers covered in the legislation. It would provide 36 months of disability benefits at $1,500 a month and a $50,000 death benefit.

The Firemen's Association of the State of New York claims that because the more than 110,000 volunteer firefighters across the state are not paid, they save taxpayers more than $3 billion a year.

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