UPDATE: Will the ACA affect volunteer firefighters? - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Will the ACA affect volunteer firefighters?

Posted: Updated:
HAMILTON COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -

UPDATE:  Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA) and Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) worked together to introduce bipartisan legislation (H.R. 3685/S. 1798) to exempt fire departments from a requirement to offer health insurance to their volunteer firefighters and emergency medical personnel.

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"Anytime that our federal government passes a 2,000 page bill that nobody's read, it's gonna be full of problems." says Walden's Ridge Fire Chief Jay Heavilon.

And the latest problem spawned by the Affordable Care Act could affect Captain Heavilon, all of his volunteer firefighters, and firehouses and communities across the country.

It was widely reported Tuesday, the IRS will consider volunteer firefighters, in departments of 50 or more, full-time employees if they work more than 30 hours a week.  And that will make them subject to mandates from Obamacare.

"If we have to provide healthcare to every member of the department, it could be the thing that breaks a budget and determines whether or not we continue to exist."

Walden's Ridge Volunteer Fire is 100-percent volunteer, from the board to junior members.

"The amount of regulation that we have to meet right now is cumbersome; it's difficult for us. We have to follow OSHA, we have to follow NFPA, we have to follow all these rules and regulations for certifications and trainings and things like this."

They exist on donations and a stipend from the county.  Add fuel, facilities, insurance, equipment and worker's comp if someone gets hurt.

"The county pays for a certain amount of that, which we appreciate, but it's expensive to run an all volunteer fire department."
     
And it's not just a problem looming for Hamilton County.  Captain Heavilon says 3-quarters of registered firefighting agencies in the state are all-volunteer.

Since the bill's signing, some groups have been provided waivers for a year, but,

"There's no exempting for volunteer firefighting organizations from Obamacare. The kind of expense that it will add to us as a department could literally put us out of business."

A representative from Pennsylvania, Tuesday, introduced legislation that would exempt volunteer fire departments.

Stay tuned.

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