Of all the unintended consequences of the disastrous healthcare monstrosity known as ObamaCare, one of the most disturbing is the effect it could have on first responders. In the event of a fire, Americans depend on the quick action of firefighters to save property (and, in many cases, lives).
Upon the full implementation of ObamaCare, however, a huge number of these brave men and women might be prohibited from responding to such emergencies.
According to a recent Daily Mail report, even though many fire departments are staffed primarily with volunteer crews, healthcare mandates do not differentiate between paid and unpaid staff members. The law states that any employer with more than 50 employees, which can include those that are paid, volunteer, or a combination of both, must provide health coverage for its staff.
Furthermore, the possibility exists to combine a town’s multiple volunteer fire departments in order to collectively push them over the 50 employee threshold.
“I can tell you right now we can’t afford it,” said one fire chief in East Derry, Penn.
According to Edward Mann, staffing a volunteer fire department cost a substantial amount of money, noting the “only part that is free is the labor.”
The fact is, 87 percent of fire departments across the U.S. are staffed entirely or in large part by volunteers. Adding the additional expense of providing health coverage to these employees would be cost-prohibitive for many cash-strapped municipalities relying on these unpaid heroes.
As of yet, the federal government has not responded to requests to provide an exception for firefighters, which the International Association of Fire Chiefs said could result in widespread interruptions in emergency response.
“If the IRS classifies volunteer firefighters and emergency medical personnel as employees in their final rule,” the association recently stated in a press release, “fire departments may be unintentionally forced to comply with requirements that could force them to curtail their emergency response activities or close entirely.”
Rep. Lou Barletta, (R-Penn.), brought up another interesting wrinkle when he questioned how volunteers will have their hours counted as they move toward the new 30-hour standard for full-time employees.
“Does it mean when a volunteer is wearing a beeper or carrying a fire department cell phone?” he wondered. “Does it include downtime at the station house? Listening to a scanner?”
Though there is no shortage of reasons to lament the passage of this healthcare law, some Americans might not get the message until they are watching their home burn to the ground.
–B. Christopher Agee
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Photo Credit: U.S. National Archives (Creative Commons)