PHILADELPHIA DEMOCRATS TO PUSH FOR PASSAGE OF HEPATITIS C BILL
HARRISBURG, June 5, 2001 – Senate Democrats from Philadelphia said today they would make passage of the Hepatitis C bill a top priority in the weeks prior to the General Assembly’s summer recess.
"This piece of legislation is extremely important to firefighters and other public safety workers," said Sen. Vincent Fumo. "We urge the Senate to act quickly this month and send the bill to the governor."
House Bill 1633, sponsored by Rep. John Perzel (R-Philadelphia), passed the House unanimously on Monday. It would automatically classify Hepatitis C as a work-related medical condition for firefighters, police officers, paramedics and correctional officers, making them eligible for workers compensation. The blood-borne virus has infected a high number of Philadelphia firefighters, who like other public safety workers have a higher-than-normal risk of exposure. They had asked the city for extended medical benefits, but were turned down.
Originally written to cover police officers, the bill was amended by Rep. Curtis Thomas (D-Philadelphia) to include firefighters, and by Rep. Robert Belfanti (D-Northumberland) to cover prison guards.
The seven Democratic senators from the city sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader David Brightbill today, requesting that the bill be quickly scheduled for committee review and a vote on the Senate floor.
"We will do everything possible to make sure that this bill is included as the Senate deals with a wide range of issues during the budget approval process this month," said Fumo, who is the Democratic chairman of the Appropriations Committee.
A copy of the letter follows:
(On Sen. Fumo Letterhead)
June 5, 2001
The Honorable David Brightbill
Dear Senator Brightbill,
We the undersigned members of the Senate delegation from Philadelphia ask that you use your office as Majority Leader to ensure that the Senate deal promptly with House Bill 1633, which received unanimous approval by the House of Representatives yesterday.
This legislation is critically important to public safety workers and their families throughout Pennsylvania, especially to a group of firefighters from Philadelphia who are already stricken with Hepatitis C. Under the bill, this viral disease would automatically be regarded as a work-related illness, thus helping public safety employees to obtain medical coverage under workers compensation.
Because benefits for Philadelphia firefighters have already been delayed while they tried to negotiate coverage with the city, it is extremely important that we swiftly bring this legislation to a vote on the Senate floor. We urge you to do everything possible to see that this bill moves through the committee process quickly, and that it is scheduled for the Senate floor at the earliest possible date.
At the very latest, we hope that the bill could be on its way to the governor for his signature before we recess for the summer. As the unanimous vote in the House demonstrates, this bill has widespread, bipartisan support, and we believe the Senate can include it among the broad range of issues that we will deal with over the next few weeks as we approve a new commonwealth budget.
Thank you for your cooperation in helping those who risk their lives to protect all citizens of the state.
VINCENT J. FUMO, State
(Original signed by all 7 Senators)