Tenn. laws expand FF cancer benefits, secure ambulance funding, protect service animals

The new legislation went into effect on July 1


By Leila Merrill

NASHVILLE — Three Tennessee laws to benefit first responders went into effect on July 1.

The new legislation expands benefits for firefighters, secures funding for ambulance services, and strengthens protections for police and service animals, the Lewis County Herald reported.

Previously, the Barry Brady Act allowed firefighters to be eligible for workers' compensation benefits if they were diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, colon cancer, skin cancer or multiple myeloma. The new law adds leukemia and testicular cancer.

“Firefighters experience cancer at much higher rates than the general public," said Sen. Paul Bailey (R-Sparta), who sponsored the bill. "The brave men and women who keep our communities safe deserve everything we can do to help them, especially with insurance coverage for conditions suffered on the job. This law builds upon the Barry Brady Act passed in 2019 to expand much-needed coverage and help more firefighters.”

Another new law extends the Ground Ambulance Assessment for one year to meet Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services requirements and to ensure Tennessee receives funding for ambulance service.

According to the Herald: "The Ground Ambulance Assessment was created in 2018 to help fill the gap between the expenses incurred by ambulance services to perform a transport and what Medicaid reimburses for this transport. Without using any state dollars, ground ambulance services pay into a fund that draws down over $20 million in federal funds that is then paid back out to these services based on their Medicaid transports.”

Sen. Ken Yager (R-Kingston) sponsored that bill.

A third new law strengthens the penalty for anyone who kills or causes serious injury to a law enforcement or service animal in Tennessee. Joker’s Law makes it so that anyone who knowingly and unlawfully kills a police dog, fire dog, search and rescue dog, service animal or police horse can be charged with a Class B felony. A person between the ages of 14 and 17 who kills or causes serious injury to one of those animals can be tried as an adult. Before July 1, killing a law enforcement service animal carried a minimum Class E felony. The law is named in honor of Joker, a K-9 with the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office who was seriously injured in the line of duty when he was shot during a pursuit last year.

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