Georgia Firefighter's Cancer Program

Posted August 28, 2017

Georgia Firefighters’ Cancer Program Offered through GMA and ACCG Insurance Programs                                                                                                                                                        
For a firefighter diagnosed with cancer, nothing is more important to their recovery than the peace of mind knowing they are supported by their family, friends and the community they serve.  A diagnosis of cancer places a financial strain on individuals and families since not all related expenses are covered by insurance.  
Medical costs – deductibles, copays, out of network treatments ‐ often grow beyond family budgets.  And, a firefighter who cannot return to employment will likely suffer a loss of income while struggling to recover their health.   
In 2017, the Georgia General Assembly, recognizing the need to support its 35,000 firefighters and their families, passed HB 146 creating a cancer program for eligible Georgia firefighters.  This unique initiative, designed to bridge financial gaps following a cancer diagnosis, allows a firefighter to focus on healing.

The cancer program, covering both eligible employed and volunteer firefighters, has two primary components:
Lump‐sum Cancer Benefit – This benefit, paid upon the diagnosis of cancer, can be used in any fashion – everyday living expenses such as utilities, groceries, or rent ‐ to meet the financial needs of a firefighter at a difficult time.  
Income Protection – Disability insurance helps to make certain a firefighter will still receive a portion of their income when they are absent from work for an extended period due to a cancer diagnosis.
The Georgia Firefighters’ Cancer Program offered through ACCG and GMA satisfies the requirements of HB 146, which goes into effect on January 1, 2018.  The Program is affordably priced and provides eligible Georgia firefighters the coverage they earn every day as they protect the citizens and property in the cities and counties of the State of Georgia.

Georgia Firefighters’ Cancer Program Offered through GMA and ACCG Insurance Programs Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Is a group cancer program being established?
A. Yes, a program will be provided through the Georgia Municipal Association for municipalities and through the ACCG Insurance Program for counties. Group purchasing helps all participants obtain lower pricing and makes it easier for them to be in compliance regarding the valuable benefits for firefighters. Private entities may access the same program via Willis Towers Watson.

Q. May an entity purchase only the critical illness coverage OR the income replacement coverage from the Georgia Firefighters’ Cancer Program depending on its needs for coverage?
A. Yes, an entity may purchase only one of the two required coverages if that is all  that is needed.  

Q. How does the critical illness or lump‐sum supplemental medical benefit   work?
A. The lump‐sum benefit provides a payout for a diagnosis of cancer based upon severity of the condition. For severe forms of cancer, the payout is $25,000. For less severe forms of cancer,  the payout is $6,250. There are  types of pre‐cancerous conditions which would not qualify for a payout. Details will be provided in future materials distributed to the firefighters.

Q. Does the lump‐sum benefit pay for more than one diagnosis of cancer?
A. Yes, the eligible firefighter may receive up to $50,000 (maximum of $25,000 for each diagnosis) in lifetime lump‐sum benefits.  

Q. May the firefighter take the benefit with them when they leave service?
A. Yes, the firefighter may keep the lump‐sum benefit provided they have not already exhausted their $50,000 limit. An eligible firefighter may also convert the income replacement coverage to individual coverage. The firefighter must pay the contribution to continue coverage.

Q. How does the income replacement benefit work?
A. The benefit starts 6 months after the date a firefighter is determined to be disabled due to cancer. For employed firefighters, the monthly benefit is 60% of their pre‐disability earnings to a maximum of $5,000.  For volunteer firefighters, the monthly benefit is a flat $1,500.  

Q. How long does the income replacement benefit last?
A. Provided the firefighter is deemed disabled, the maximum benefit duration is 36 months.

Q. If the firefighter is receiving income from other sources, is the monthly benefit reduced?
A. Yes.  The monthly benefit will be reduced based on the other sources of income.

Q. If a firefighter owns a privately  purchased insurance policy paying benefits in addition to those received under the program, would the Program monthly benefit be reduced?
A. No, the benefit will not be reduced provided the firefighter purchased a privately owned policy (i.e., not one offered on a group basis through their employer).
For more information, contact an ACCG or GMA representative, or email: gfcp@willistowerswatson.com.

Georgia Firefighters’ Cancer Program Offered through GMA and ACCG Insurance Programs Contribution FAQ 

This document provides examples detailing how entity contributions should be paid under GMA and ACCG’s Cancer Program. If necessary, contact GFCP@willistowerswatson.com for guidance. Please be certain to provide your contact information to schedule a follow-up call. If you prefer to speak with a Program representative, please contact Lindsey Albright at 404 224 5044 or Meghan Murray at 404 302 3898. Refer to the Program FAQ for information on the plan features and administration. HB 146 requires all legally organized fire departments to provide specific cancer insurance coverages for all employed and volunteer firefighters. Coverage is available through GMA and ACCG for entities meeting the definition of “Municipality” or “County” under O.C.G.A. § 36-85-1.

Employed Firefighters
Employed with One Fire Department


Q. Who would pay the contribution for an employed eligible firefighter with at least 12 months of consecutive employment as a firefighter working solely for one entity?
A. The entity that pays the firefighter’s salary would pay the contribution.

Employed with One Fire Department and Volunteers at Second Location

Q. Who would pay the contribution for an employed eligible firefighter with at least 12 months of consecutive employment as a firefighter at one entity and volunteers at another entity?
A. The entity that pays the firefighter’s salary would pay the contribution according to HB 146.

Employed with more than One Fire Department

Q. Who would pay the contribution for an employed eligible firefighter with at least 12 months of consecutive employment as a firefighter for more than one entity?
A. Each entity will be responsible for the contribution, but at a reduced rate. Subject to the plan maximum, all salaries as an employed firefighter would be combined to determine the disability benefit.

Volunteer Firefighters
Volunteer Firefighter at Single Location


Q. Who would pay the contribution for an eligible volunteer firefighter with at least 12 months of consecutive service as a volunteer solely for one entity?
A. The entity where the firefighter volunteers would pay the contribution. Volunteer Firefighter at Multiple Locations

Q. Who would pay the contribution for an eligible volunteer firefighter with at least 12 months of consecutive service as a volunteer for more than one entity?
A. Each entity will be responsible for the contribution, but at a reduced rate.

Private Firefighters (Non-municipal and non-county entities)

Q. Who is the contact to quote coverage for private firefighters?
A. Contact Willis Towers Watson via GFCP@willistowerswatson.com. Please be certain to provide your contact information to schedule a follow-up call.

Georgia Firefighters’ Cancer Program Offered through GMA and ACCG Insurance Programs
Program FAQ
This document provides information on GMA and ACCG’s Georgia Firefighters’ Cancer Program (GFCP). For additional questions, contact GFCP@willistowerswatson.com, and provide your contact information to schedule a follow-up call. If you prefer to speak with a Program representative, contact Lindsey Albright at 404-224-5044 or Meghan Murray at 404-302-3898. Refer to the Contribution FAQ document for help on how entities will be billed for the statutorily required benefits. General Information about HB 146 (2017)

Q. What is the purpose of HB 146 (2017)?
A. It provides employed and volunteer firefighters with monetary assistance in the event that they are diagnosed with cancer. The term “firefighter” is defined by O.C.G.A. § 25-4-2.

Q. What are the required benefits?
A. There are two separate, independent requirements relating to a diagnosis of cancer for eligible firefighters: a critical illness requirement and an income replacement requirement. Firefighters employed by and/or volunteering for multiple departments are not entitled to receive multiple benefit payments. However, if an individual is employed as a firefighter with multiple entities, total wages earned from all entities are considered when calculating the monthly disability benefit.

Q. When does the legislation become effective?
A. The effective date is January 1, 2018.

Q. How do I know if my entity is required to comply with this legislation?
A. If your entity has a legally organized fire department that employs firefighters or utilizes volunteer firefighters, it is subject to the legislation and is required to provide the benefits.

Q. Who determines if an entity has complied with the provisions of the Act?
A. The Georgia Firefighter Standards and Training Council promulgates the rules and regulations governing the Act and what constitutes compliance.

Q. Is a claim for cancer diagnosed prior to January 1, 2018 eligible for coverage?
A. No. Only compensable cancer illnesses diagnosed on or after January 1, 2018 will be eligible.

Q. Must a firefighter have served continuously for a period of time to be eligible?
A. Yes, a firefighter must have served 12 consecutive months with their fire department to be eligible.

Q. If a firefighter works as an employed firefighter in one location and a volunteer firefighter in another location, would that firefighter be eligible for coverage in both locations?
A. No. HB 146 (2017) states that the employer is responsible for coverage in this instance.

Features of the Cancer Program Provided Through GMA and ACCG

Q. Is a group cancer program being established?
A. Yes, a program will be provided through the Georgia Municipal Association for municipalities and through the ACCG Insurance Program for counties. Group purchasing helps all participants obtain lower pricing and makes it easier for them to be in compliance regarding the valuable benefits for firefighters. Private entities may access the same program via Willis Towers Watson.

Q. May an entity purchase only the critical illness coverage OR the income replacement coverage from the Georgia Firefighters’ Cancer Program depending on its needs for coverage?
A. Yes, an entity may purchase only one of the two required coverages if that is all that is needed.

Q. How does the critical illness or lump-sum supplemental medical benefit work?
A. The lump-sum benefit provides a payout for a diagnosis of cancer based upon severity of the condition. For severe forms of cancer, the payout is $25,000. For less severe forms of cancer, the payout is $6,250. There are types of pre-cancerous conditions which would not qualify for a payout. Details will be provided in future materials distributed to the firefighters.

Q. Does the lump-sum benefit pay for more than one diagnosis of cancer?
A. Yes, the eligible firefighter may receive up to $50,000 (maximum of $25,000 for each diagnosis) in lifetime lump-sum benefits.

Q. How much time must separate multiple diagnoses to allow for more than one payout?
A. The firefighter must be symptom-free for 180 days between diagnoses.

Q. May the firefighter take the benefit with them when they leave service?
A. Yes, the firefighter may keep the lump-sum benefit provided they have not already exhausted their $50,000 limit. An eligible firefighter may also convert the income replacement coverage to individual coverage. The firefighter must pay the contribution to continue coverage.

Q. How does the income replacement benefit work?
A. The benefit starts 6 months after the date a firefighter is determined to be disabled due to cancer. For employed firefighters, the monthly benefit is 60% of their pre-disability earnings to a maximum of $5,000. For volunteer firefighters, the monthly benefit is a flat $1,500.

Q. How long does the income replacement benefit last?
A. Provided the firefighter is deemed disabled, the maximum benefit duration is 36 months.

Q. If the firefighter is receiving income from other sources, is the monthly benefit reduced?
A. Yes. The monthly benefit will be reduced based on the other sources of income.

Q. If a firefighter owns a privately purchased insurance policy paying benefits in addition to those received under the program, would the Program monthly benefit be reduced?
A. No, the benefit will not be reduced provided the firefighter purchased a privately owned policy (i.e., not one offered on a group basis through their employer).

Q. Are both benefits taxable?
A. Both benefits are taxable under the IRS as the firefighter’s employer is paying for the coverage.

GFCP Program FAQ Ed. 8/24/2017