Thousands of local fire departments across the United States are either all or part volunteer forces. Thanks to Obamacare and a quirk in the way the IRS sees these volunteers, these departments face the prospect of paying vast amounts of money in healthcare coverage, or closing down, reports WBTV in Pennsylvania. The issue is that the government views these volunteers as employees of the fire departments even though the vast majority are not being paid.
According to the National Volunteer Fire Council, there are more than 783,000 volunteer firefighters in the United States. That’s 70% of America’s Firefighting Force, according to the Council.
“Our volunteers are the backbone of public safety as far as the fire services goes here in Lancaster County. We literally couldn’t do without them,” Willis said.
Sen. Joe Manchin and several other senators are working on a bill that would keep Obamacare from forcing volunteer fire departments to either extend healthcare to their volunteers or close their doors. That bill has not moved yet despite the fact that that Obamacare issue has been making headlines since early December, so fire chiefs are stuck not knowing how Obamacare will force them to handle their volunteer firefighters.
Volunteer firefighters typically own their own businesses or have jobs, and therefore healthcare, from a source outside the fire departments they donate their time and risk their lives for. Fire department healthcare would be redundant even if the departments could afford to offer it, but the vast majority cannot afford it.