Volunteer Fire Departments Feeling the Heat from Affordable Care Act


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WAYNESBORO, Va. (WHSV) -- Volunteer fire departments across the country are feeling the heat from Obamacare, amid concern that the Affordable Care Act could spell their doom.

"The budget is going to be stretched really, really, really thin, and a lot of departments cannot afford this right now," said Mike Fisher, the Dooms Volunteer Fire Company chief and a car salesman in Staunton.

There is a growing fear that the health care law could close volunteer fire departments.

"If they don't have the personnel, the service is going to suffer. If they don't have the personnel, the citizens are going to suffer," said Fisher.

The problem lies in the uncertainty surrounding the law and how the IRS treats volunteer firefighters.

Under the ACA's employer mandate, volunteer fire departments could be forced to offer insurance if they have more than 50 full-time volunteers.

"Clearly that was not the intent of the legislation," said Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.).

Warner is sponsoring a bill in the Senate to exempt volunteer first responders from the ACA's employer mandate.

"The main thing is we should not penalize volunteer firemen or rescue squad workers who do a great job for their community all over Virginia, but particularly up and down the Valley," said Warner.

"We need to get this House bill passed, and the Senate, that the fire departments and rescue squads are exempt because it's going to hurt the service to the people. And that's who the Affordable Care Act is supposed to protect: the people," said Fisher.

The bill Warner is sponsoring is not the only step he has taken on this issue.

He also sent a letter to the treasury secretary, dated Monday, trying to see if there is an administrative fix before it becomes a problem.

Warner says it is not a problem yet because we are not exactly sure how the IRS would handle that situation.

A similar bill also has been introduced in the House to fix this "unintended consequence," which seems to be on politicians' radar at this point.

Warner said any time you are talking about a major piece of legislation, Congress never gets it 100 percent right.


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