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House bill to exempt volunteer fire departments from Obamacare rule

Depending on an upcoming IRS ruling, the law could saddle volunteer fire departments with "unbearable financial burdens"

The Standard-Speaker

WASHINGTON — Congressman Lou Barletta (R-Pa.) introduced legislation that would exempt volunteer firefighters and emergency responders from the Employer Mandate Provision of the Affordable Care Act.

Barletta on Tuesday said the legislation would address part of the federal law that would saddle volunteer fire departments and municipalities with "unbearable financial burdens" and threaten public safety.

Since the IRS views volunteer firefighters as employees, fire companies and municipalities would be forced to provide health insurance or pay a fine, the congressman said.

Under the Employer Mandate Provision, employers with 50 or more employees must provide health insurance or pay penalties.

Barletta is concerned that the provision could create severe financial problems for volunteer firefighters and emergency responders — particularly those from Pennsylvania, where 97 percent of stations count exclusively or mostly on volunteers.

"This is just another example of how Obamacare was not well thought out," Barletta said in a statement. "I would rather tear down the whole thing and start over again with a fresh health care approach, but the president has made it clear that he won't allow that happen. So, we're left to try and pave over the potholes, and this is a big one — possibly affecting fire stations nationwide."

According to the congressman, fire companies could exceed the 50-employee threshold based on their size, being part of a larger combined force under different chiefs or by being part of a municipality that has 50 or more public employees in total.

The National Volunteer Fire Council and International Association of Fire Chiefs supports the legislation, Barletta said.

Barletta asked the IRS to clarify his concerns, but said he has not received a response as of Tuesday.

The congressman questioned the IRS classification of firefighters and potential adverse impacts of Obamacare last week.

The tax agency generally treats firefighters as employees for federal tax purposes. Barletta wants to know how the IRS would count "working" hours of volunteer firefighters when a 30-hour work week would trigger Obamacare penalties.

Copyright 2013 Standard-Speaker

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

All Rights Reserved




Comments
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Wednesday, December 11, 2013 10:40:11 AM Congress has had DECADES to come up with something reasonable, I'm thankful President Obama championed this issue. No the ACA is not perfect, but it's better than NOTHING...
Ron Ford Ron Ford Wednesday, December 11, 2013 11:20:52 AM Another OBAMA HEALTHCARE issue that was forced to be accept,by certain members of our government. Rush to pass without knowing all aspects of this bill. Many taxes and fines coming up in the next couple of years, and most of the people of this country don't even know. I SAY EVER ELECTION LETS VOTE OUT EVERY JOKER THAT VOTED FOR THIS CRAP!!!
Roy R Norman Roy R Norman Wednesday, December 11, 2013 12:50:14 PM What is next they, we do this for free A lot of towns would be with out Fire and Ems services with out them so lets put more burden on the men and women that do this for free and have to all ready worried about if the small town can buy fuel for the next run or need equipment to fight fires or save lives ect cause they are strapped for cash already this does not make any since at all this was not a very thought out plan for sure but I agree that in 2014 we need to get out and vote and clean house
A.J. Morelli A.J. Morelli Friday, December 13, 2013 10:19:09 AM The IRS will exempt volunteer FDs, period. Let's wait on the IRS reply before wetting our pants, shall we.
Morgan Villarreal Morgan Villarreal Monday, December 23, 2013 3:46:44 PM A lot of places in Michigan are either combination, POC, or strictly volunteer.

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