Rep. Oscar Longoria (D-La Joya) along with 4 other authors, filed House Bill 1521, which would penalize insurers that illegally deny Texas first responders access to medical treatment for line-of-duty injuries covered under state workers’ compensation laws.

This proposed legislation would amend Section 415.021 of the Labor Code to add sanctions, administrative penalties, and other remedies, including attorney’s fees, for administrative violations by self-or collectively insured municipalities obligated to cover eligible workers’ compensation claims. The amount of the administrative penalty shall not be less than two times the total amount of benefits payable in connection with the first responder employee’s claim.

HB 1521 would clarify that cities do not have sovereign immunity when they act as a workers compensation provider. This would ensure that the Division of Workers Compensation and the Texas Department of Insurance are able to properly regulate governmental entities that provide workers compensation coverage.

Rep. Longoria said, “The workers’ compensation system has failed too many Texas first responders, including my constituent, Homer Salinas, a Mission firefighter and cancer survivor. Mr. Salinas won four rounds of workers’ comp proceedings to get his cancer treatment covered, yet he was sued by the City of Mission to reverse prior decisions in Homer’s favor. House Bill 1521 is an important step toward ensuring that our hero first responders are not denied the medical treatment they have earned through their service under Texas law. Mr. Salinas should be focused on his health and protecting his community – not fighting for benefits he’s earned.”

The proposed legislation is supported by the Texas State Association of Fire Fighters (TSAFF), which includes more than 18,000 professional firefighter members in 182 Texas communities. 

Studies show firefighters are at increased risk for cancers and other illnesses caused by on-the-job exposure to hazardous materials. For example, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has cited the higher risks of kidney cancer that firefighters face. Chapter 607 of the Texas Government Code, Texas’ “presumptive” law, covers related medical care, according to the Texas Department of Insurance. The statute provides that Texas firefighters are entitled to receive the medical treatment they have earned as they risked their own lives protecting others.