By Wendy Holdren
Volunteer firefighters across the country can breathe a sigh of relief, as the U.S. Treasury has decided to make them and volunteer medical emergency personnel exempt from the Affordable Care Act mandate.
According to the IRS, volunteers who work at least 30 hours per week are considered full-time employees; therefore, under the ACA, volunteer fire departments would have been required to provide health care coverage had the Treasury not made this exemption.
Many fire departments said they would have been unable to pay and would have been forced to disband.
Sen. Joe Manchin and several other senators expressed their concern about this issue last month, and Manchin said Friday he applauds the Treasury’s decision.
The new rule clarifies that volunteer fire departments will not be subject to the employer health care mandate, as volunteer firefighters and volunteer medical emergency personnel will not be counted as full-time equivalent employees.
“I am pleased that the administration listened to the concerns of fire departments across the country and clarified provisions in the tax code that make sure our volunteer fire departments and emergency response agencies will not be punished by a technical error in the health care law,” Manchin said.
According to a release from Manchin, approximately 750,000 volunteer firefighters serve in 20,000 all-volunteer and 5,000 combination career-volunteer fire departments throughout the U.S. Many volunteer first responders are nominally compensated, and most volunteer first responders have other paid, full-time employment.
Many emergency response agencies do not have the resources to provide pay or benefits to volunteers, nor do most volunteer first responders expect to receive compensation or health coverage as a result of their volunteer public service.