Volunteer Firefighters And Other Emergency Service Volunteers Won’t Be Counted As Full Time Under Federal Health Care Regulations
The risk of potentially laying off career firefighters and cutting hours to many others has been avoided now that The U.S Department of Treasury says fire departments won’t have to provide heath coverage to volunteer firefighters under the federal health care law.
“As a fire chief it’s a really big relief…” That’s what Presque Isle Fire Chief Darrell White is saying. Volunteers for fire departments in Maine and other emergency responder volunteers will not be counted as full time employees under the Affordable Care Act. The Act would have required every department with 50 or more employees working at least 30 hours a week to provide health insurance for them.
White, “The consequences of that is it’s just an additional budget cost that we just don’t have, we’re at bottom line now…”
Now that employers won’t have to provide health insurance for their volunteers, it eases the concerns over the affordable care act forcing departments to cut volunteer hours or benefits.
White, “The results are one, the city is going to have to try to find that money but more likely we would have to reduce our call volume numbers to capture that savings, or even worse, we’d have to maybe lay off even career firefighters.”
Fire departments across the country have been calling on the federal government to ensure their volunteers are exempt from the law. Volunteer firefighters have been considered employees for tax purposes because they’re often offered such incentives as stipends, retirement benefits and gym memberships. But it’s not only money that’s the issue here, service would have been impacted as well.
“If you lay off career firefighters, we would no longer meet the two in two out rule, which right now we do. So when that truck pulls in, it automatically has enough firefighters on it so that we can begin doing interior firefighting,” adds White.
Chief White says that being at the minimum staffing levels as it is, not having to worry about volunteer health coverage will enable them, and other departments in the county to operate as they have been with no changes.
Also the exemptions from the Affordable Care Act will apply to all emergency service volunteers as well, not just fire departments.