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First it was IRS, then PERS…now some Oregon Volunteer Firefighters are being snagged by Obamacare

Volunteer firefighters getting blindsided again...

Volunteer firefighters getting blindsided again…

Provided by Oregon Fire Chiefs Assn.

Unintended consequences in implementation of the Affordable Care Act, set to begin on January 1, 2014, may have serious consequences for Oregon’s fire service. Provisions in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would require volunteer fire fighters and emergency medical technicians working 30 hours per week to be considered full-time employees, thus forcing a fire district, city or department to provide health insurance or pay a fine if they are large enough.

In the US, over 75% of individuals are protected by a volunteer fire department or firefighters. In Oregon, nearly 2/3 of Oregon’s fire departments are classified as all volunteer or mostly volunteer. Most agencies do not have the financial resources to provide health insurance to their volunteers and the impact of this mandate in the ACA could potentially reduce the overall number of volunteers and level of fire and emergency medical protection in a given community.

HR 3685/S 1798 has been introduced by Congressman Lou Barletta (R-PA) and Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Joe Manchin (C-WV) to exempt fire departments from the requirement to offer health insurance to their volunteer firefighters and emergency medical personnel. Congressman Greg Walden (R-OR) has now added his name as a co-sponsor to this important legislation.

“Volunteers are a key and critical part of fire and emergency medical protection for not just Oregonians but communities across the nation. It is important that communities who are protected by volunteers remain able to keep a volunteer force in tact without undue financial burdens including the unintended health insurance consequences of the Affordable Care Act,” commented OFCA member and Marion County Fire Chief Kevin Henson, Chair of the OFCA Volunteer 360 Task Force. “The definition of volunteer should not be arbitrary, leaving fire departments with an unknown potential liability and potential reduced ability to protect and serve their community. We support legislation that provides a mechanism for nominal compensation of volunteers without creating unintended consequences with PERS and the IRS,” stated Chief Henson.

The Oregon Fire Chiefs Association thanks Congressman Walden and his colleagues for their work and supports HR 3685/S 1798 and urges passage of this important bi-partisan legislation to exempt fire departments from this unintended negative consequence of the Affordable Care Act.

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