As the Senate chair of the Health Coverage, Insurance, and Financial Services Committee, I work to make health insurance accessible and affordable. During my time, I learned that first responders, including firefighters and police officers, experience chronic stress while responding to crises and emergencies. Moreover, these brave individuals face not only physical challenges but also significant mental and emotional burdens as they navigate the aftermath of emergencies.

All of this can lead to serious medical conditions that shorten their lifespans — if they go without preventive screenings and tests. Indeed, firefighters are often exposed to toxic chemicals that can result in serious health conditions. According to the CDC, cancer is the leading cause of death among firefighters, and firefighters are at higher risk for some cancers when compared to the general population. As a result, the lifespan of a firefighter is 10 years less than the lifespan of a non-firefighter.

That is why I am determined to take action to help and protect these heroes, just like they help and protect us. My bill, LD 444, seeks to ensure that medical professionals consider the unique risk factors associated with the profession when recommending and conducting preventive screenings — and that insurance companies cover these screenings.

Currently, the preventive health screenings that are necessary to catch the early onset of health impacts related to first responder risks are not provided (or covered) without a clear presenting symptom. For example, most insurances do not cover negative screenings for cancer except in certain circumstances, while some routine cancer screenings have age-related triggers like mammograms or screenings for colon cancer. My bill would designate first responders as a special risk group, making sure that all first responders are evaluated for their real risks regardless of the size or capacity of the agency they work for, employment status, or insurance carrier.

Last year, my House colleague Rep. Lynn Copeland, D-Saco, introduced a bill to create the Public Safety Health and Wellness Reimbursement Fund for public safety workers and volunteers. I am proud to be the lead co-sponsor for the bill.

During the public hearing, I provided testimony that explained the importance of preventive health screenings for cardiac risks. In today’s world, we can test for specialized bio inflammation markers that indicate plaque-causing events, such as heart attacks, heart disease, and strokes. It is critical that we cover these tests for public safety workers and volunteers because the average age of a public safety worker experiencing a heart attack is 49 – compared to 65 for someone who doesn’t work in public safety. In fact, 40% of law enforcement officers will have a heart attack under the age of 45. When these men and women put their lives on the line, they have to worry about more than high-speed traffic chases, bomb threats, and school shootings. They have a high risk of suffering from a heart attack by the age when their kids have not even graduated from high school.

Taken together, my and Rep. Copeland’s bills will ensure that first responders can access the life-changing, sometimes life-saving, preventive health screenings so that they can do their jobs while living long lives. They deserve this care and coverage. They have our backs, so it’s time that we have theirs.

If you have any questions about these bills or need help with a government agency or program, please reach out to me directly at or contact my legislative office at (207) 287-1515.

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