Among all of the myriad problems with the Affordable Care Act (a/k/a Obamacare) is a little publicized issue which could devastate volunteer fire departments across the country. Since the Supreme Court ruled that Obamacare is a “tax” and the IRS considers volunteer fire fighters to be employees, a fight is brewing over whether such volunteers must be offered health insurance.
Fire departments and unions representing fire fighters have been publicizing the enormity of the potential impact (link here). A bipartisan group of Senators wrote the Department of Labor and IRS on Monday, December 16th, lobbying for non-coverage under the law, and a legal opinion is expected sometime in early 2014 before the employer mandate becomes effective. If volunteers are deemed to be employees, the fire departments will be required to offer health insurance or else face steep penalties. This would effectively bankrupt volunteer fire departments, which have tight budgets, and would be wasteful since most personnel likely have other jobs which offer benefits.
Since we all rely on fire protection, this is an important issue which should be followed closely.