Affordable Care Act concerns volunteer fire companies

Written by Matt Paul, Reporter/Producer | Dec 18, 2013 4:53 AM

(East Lampeter Twp.) -- The federal Affordable Care Act's employer mandate could have dire consequences for volunteer fire companies across the state.

Organizations with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees will be required to offer health insurance, starting in 2015, under the ACA.

But the IRS considers volunteer firefighters and emergency medical technicians employees for tax purposes.

This fine print has many departments -- and now some congressmen -- concerned they'll have to shut down if they are subject to the employer mandate.

Lancaster County Commissioner Scott Martin, a Republican, shares their concern. He says volunteer firefighters are invaluable to their communities.

“How do you put a price on people who give of their personal time, convince their employers to let them go on a whim when that pager goes off, who are willing to go into fires and pull out people, who are willing to use their vacation time to take training – how do you put a value on that? You can’t.”

Martin joined GOP Congressman Joe Pitts and others at the Lafayette Fire Company in East Lampeter Township to urge passage of legislation that would exempt such volunteers from the mandate.

The IRS has yet publicly discuss its interpretation of the law.

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Comments: 3

  • sdee img 2013-12-18 08:24

    Reporter Matt Paul has a story this morning regarding the ACA and firefighters. It's disappointing not to hear any other sides of the story. For instance, when County Commissioner, Scott Martin, asks, "How do you put a price on people who give of their personal time," there could be a follow up question regarding those who don't want to contribute price/cost of providing health insurance for people who walk into fires. The firefighters risk their lives to provide that service and providing them with health insurance seems to be a minimum requirement for those who accept their volunteer service. Commisioner Martin and Congressman Pitts are asking a partisan question.

    • Matt Paul img 2013-12-18 12:06

      Thanks for writing, sdee.

      We're going to take a much more detailed look at this issue in the days ahead, so I hope you stay tuned for that.

      But thus far the volunteer exemption itself doesn't appear to be a partisan issue. The state House just voted unanimously in favor of a resolution urging passage of the exemption bill in Congress.

    • Matt Nace img 2013-12-18 20:07

      Fire departments provide their firefighters with workers compensation for injuries during firefighting activities. This health insurance would cover medical expenses and other insurance costs. Firefighters risk their lives and they are already protected by current workers compensation insurance. This law is going to put many volunteer stations out of service and limit the protection of individual citizens. The law needs to be removed so that fire stations can provide this vital service to the public and not be worried about paying for health insurance.

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