Latest casualty of ObamaCare: Volunteer fire departments?

posted at 2:41 pm on December 10, 2013 by Steve Eggleston

Just when one thought the news surrounding the damage being caused by ObamaCare can’t get worse, the Scranton Times-Tribune reports that ObamaCare may well end many volunteer fire departments:

A local congressman wants answers on whether volunteer firefighting companies could be unintentionally swept into the national health care reform law championed by President Barack Obama.

The International Association of Fire Chiefs has asked the Internal Revenue Service, which has partial oversight of the law, to clarify if current IRS treatment of volunteer firefighters as employees means their hose companies or towns must offer health insurance coverage or pay a penalty if they don’t.

The organization representing the fire chiefs has been working on the issue with the IRS and White House for months.

While the Department of Labor classifies most volunteer firefighters as volunteers and thus not employees, the IRS currently classifies them as employees. That means that, if a particular department puts in more than 1500 man-hours while using at least 50 volunteers and employees in a week, it must provide health insurance for those who put in at least 30 hours in a week starting in 2015, or sooner if a court decides to toss the administrative 1-year delay in the employer health insurance mandate.

Worse, the IRS has not yet finalized the rules regarding volunteer fire departments, even though both the IAFC and Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA) have been urging the IRS to finalize it in favor of volunteer fire departments. Not only is the work that must be clocked, should the volunteers be counted as “employees”, not defined, but it is unknown whether multiple companies in a particular department would be grouped together for the purposes of the 50 “full-time” equivalent requirement.

Many volunteer fire departments operate on shoestring budgets, and they cannot afford the extensive record-keeping required to determine whether they have to provide health insurance and to whom they have to provide health insurance, the cost of said insurance, or the $2,000/eligible person fine if they do not provide health insurance.

The Daily Mail notes that 71% of the firehouses are staffed exclusively by volunteer firefighters, and another 16% have a mixed professional/volunteer staff. It also states that the Treasury Department has “received a number of comments concerning volunteer firefighters and other volunteers in response to proposed regulations issued last December.”

Something tells me that the fact that most volunteer fire departments are not unionized, while most professional fire departments are unionized, will have a greater effect on the final rule than local finances or public safety.


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Worse, the IRS has not yet finalized the rules regarding volunteer fire departments, even though both the IAFC and Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA) have been urging the IRS to finalize it in favor of volunteer fire departments.

Something tells me that the fact that most volunteer fire departments are not unionized, while most professional fire departments are unionized, will have a greater effect on the final rule than local finances or public safety.

This more or less says everything you need to know. This action seems to be deliberate on the administration’s part, and I can’t really think of any reason for them to wipe out volunteer fire departments except sheer unadulterated malice. It’s almost like watching cartoon villains.

Doomberg on December 10, 2013 at 2:44 PM

They ain’t union hint, hint…..

viking01 on December 10, 2013 at 2:45 PM

Something tells me that the fact that most volunteer fire departments are not unionized, while most professional fire departments are unionized, will have a greater effect on the final rule than local finances or public safety.

That’s the money line. Nice.

KCB on December 10, 2013 at 2:47 PM

Since O’Barky is perfectly willing to let thousands if not millions of cancer patients die from O’Commiecare it shouldn’t surprise he is equally willing to deny millions adequate fire and rescue protection.

viking01 on December 10, 2013 at 2:47 PM

Something tells me that the fact that most volunteer fire departments are not unionized, while most professional fire departments are unionized, will have a greater effect on the final rule than local finances or public safety.

Except that most firehouses are volunteer firehouses, as you pointed out in your own post. Is this administration really so stupid as to potentially shutdown 71% of firehouses? Wait, don’t answer that…

NotCoach on December 10, 2013 at 2:49 PM

If this doesn’t get resolved for the volunteers,Let it burn.

docflash on December 10, 2013 at 2:51 PM

States like NJ have been trying to raise regulatory barriers to volunteer firefighters for years to try to force unionization. Stealth regulations like excessive levels of training that virtually eliminate the ability volunteer.

I agree that they will try the same play here.

It will be interesting to see how it goes down in my home state of PA, because the volunteer firefighter ethos here is huge – 97% of depts are volunteer, pretty much 100% outside of the big cities – despite a huge pro-union sentiment overall in the state.

I don’t think it will be popular in the state.

But I don’t think one state like PA will matter, since many of the volunteers in the rest of the country fall under the 50-employee threshold, and Dems will go for it as a result.

The end result will be more departments that slim the number of volunteers under 50 – hampering safety.

Costs of departments will rise, causing taxes to rise.

Negative impacts? Check. Higher taxes? Check. Less freedom? Check. Another fantastic progressive plan! If you like your Fire Department, you can keep your Fire Department. Another promise kept.

I’d like to the Republicans capitalize on this more, it resonates heavily in the areas where I have lived in my life – the intrusion on freedom and ability to volunteer – but I wouldn’t count on the professional DC crowd to capitalize on this. Its a foreign concept to them anyway.

PrincetonAl on December 10, 2013 at 2:52 PM

I don’t think I’ve ever lived in a town with a professional fire department.
This is the fabric of America–neighbors helping neighbors. The perfect reason this regime should abolish it.

vityas on December 10, 2013 at 2:53 PM

So what? The federal government can just federalize these fire departments and make the fire fighters federal employees. Everybody wins!!

besser tot als rot on December 10, 2013 at 2:54 PM

ObamaCare may well end many volunteer fire departments:

Let’s review what we’ve found out about Obamacare since October 1st, all of it having nothing to do with the website that the first Yeti’s college pal got as a $600M no-bid contract.

You may not keep your health insurance plan. In fact Obamacare is designed to get rid of it to pay for all the moochers who get the same coverage as you do “for free” by gouging the productive.

You may not keep your doctor. But we just learned if you want to pay more into the system, then maybe you can. But only if you pay more.

Premiums for the most basic Obamacare plans are artificially “low” by raising deductibles. Overall only the parasites and chronically ill benefit because they are mooching off the healthy and productive.

You may not keep your medications. It may have taken you years to find some medication that works for your medical issues but that doesn’t mean that Obamacare is going to let you keep taking it within the system.

You may not be able to go to the better hospitals. They are not opting into Obamacare. Never has there been a greater disparity between those who are getting quality healthcare and who has to settle for the kind of medical treatment that Northwestern’s patient dumping scheme orchestrated by the first Yeti.

Now, you may not even get to keep your local volunteer fire department.

Happy Nomad on December 10, 2013 at 2:54 PM

PrincetonAl on December 10, 2013 at 2:52 PM

It’s not just one state. As AP posted 71% of all firehouses are 100% volunteer. If no exception is made the impact on all of us would be disastrous.

NotCoach on December 10, 2013 at 2:55 PM

More related to this topic:

http://freebeacon.com/michigan-first-responders-facing-cuts-in-hours-due-to-obamacare/

Wigglesworth on December 10, 2013 at 2:55 PM

Since most rural areas rely on volunteer firefighters, I could also see this as a direct attack on Republican-friendly fly-over country!

dominigan on December 10, 2013 at 2:57 PM

Do we even have to ask if this applies to OFA volunteers????

rw on December 10, 2013 at 2:58 PM

So what? The federal government can just federalize these fire departments and make the fire fighters federal employees. Everybody wins!!

besser tot als rot on December 10, 2013 at 2:54 PM

Better yet just force the volunteers to fight fires gratis, just like some are saying we should do with all these greedy doctors. God damned greedy volunteer fire fighters. If they won’t pick cotton fight fires we’ll just whip them.

NotCoach on December 10, 2013 at 2:58 PM

Obamacare…death and destruction coming to a town near you…

PatriotRider on December 10, 2013 at 3:00 PM

Except that most firehouses are volunteer firehouses, as you pointed out in your own post. Is this administration really so stupid as to potentially shutdown 71% of firehouses? Wait, don’t answer that…

NotCoach on December 10, 2013 at 2:49 PM

It’s not stupidity, it’s vindictiveness. Leftists believe everything good comes from the government; just as they don’t believe in private charity they also don’t believe in relying on volunteers.

Most of these volunteer companies are in small towns or rural areas, there isn’t a tax base to pay for a full time, unionized fire department.

rbj on December 10, 2013 at 3:01 PM

I’m sure that the SEIU had a hand in this…

PatriotRider on December 10, 2013 at 3:02 PM

“Well, at least they don’t have 30 videos of me saying ‘If you like your volunteer fire stations, you can keep your fire stations!’” ~Obama, His Holy Won-ness

mattshu on December 10, 2013 at 3:02 PM

As volunteers, wouldn’t most members have day jobs that provide health insurance already? My home town back in Delaware, such would be the case… Seems like a non-issue…

HornHiAceDeuce on December 10, 2013 at 3:03 PM

both the IAFC and Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA) have been urging the IRS to finalize it in favor of volunteer fire departments

Lou, I know you’re trying to help your constituents and that’s mighty admirable but sometimes you have to let it burn.

Kafir on December 10, 2013 at 3:03 PM

Gives L.I.B. a totally new meaning…

PatriotRider on December 10, 2013 at 3:04 PM

I don’t think I’ve ever lived in a town with a professional fire department.
This is the fabric of America–neighbors helping neighbors. The perfect reason this regime should abolish it.

vityas on December 10, 2013 at 2:53 PM

I agree with most of what you are saying; but I think you’ve lived in towns with PROFESSIONAL Fire Departments, it’s just the members weren’t paid employees.

reddevil on December 10, 2013 at 3:04 PM

One size fits all.

tommer74 on December 10, 2013 at 3:04 PM

We used live in Montville, CT (home of the Mohegan Sun Casino) and all of the Fire Departments there are volunteer, with a few exceptions like the Fire Marshal, Inspector and a few others. There are three departments for the town and there are way over 50 total guys in them. If this rule stands they will have to dissolve them, there is no way the town can afford that kind of hit.

I have no idea what would happen after that. Definitely another huge tax increase.

Johnnyreb on December 10, 2013 at 3:05 PM

Most are probably in Fly Over country. They don’t vote the correct party line anyway.

kcewa on December 10, 2013 at 3:05 PM

NotCoach on December 10, 2013 at 2:49 PM

They want to drive people to the cities and out of rural areas. I wonder if this is related.

dogsoldier on December 10, 2013 at 3:06 PM

As volunteers, wouldn’t most members have day jobs that provide provided health insurance already before Obamacare? My home town back in Delaware, such would be the case… Seems like a non-issue…

HornHiAceDeuce on December 10, 2013 at 3:03 PM

FIFY.

kcewa on December 10, 2013 at 3:09 PM

If you like your volunteer fire department, you can can’t keep your volunteer fire department.

I’m starting to sense a pattern here.

Bitter Clinger on December 10, 2013 at 3:15 PM

The entire fire and EMS community is affected. Training programs that have hospital clinical requirements are in danger as well, because most hospitals (all in our area) require students to carry health insurance in order to complete the required clinical training. What used to be allowed as a short term catastrophic policy for a low price (after all, EMS and fire folks are pretty fit) becomes a potential annual contract under Obamacare rules and prices. All because those ‘individual plans’ weren’t esteemed acceptable to Obama’s cronies.

Departments that pay a small stipend to volunteers per response or for on-call coverage to help them with the costs of their service will discover that they have many “employees” who may soon need to be paid a minimum wage to wear a pager, or who will need employer-provided medical coverage for their volunteer staff. When you add a regular small town’s staff, plus the volunteers, you get past the 50 person limit pretty easily. Thanks, Obama!

spudmom on December 10, 2013 at 3:16 PM

Something tells me that the fact that most volunteer fire departments are not unionized, while most professional fire departments are unionized, will have a greater effect on the final rule than local finances or public safety.

Bingo. Paid departments will need to expand to pick up the slack caused by closed vol units. That means more union-members and, most importantly, more income from dues.

WarEagle01 on December 10, 2013 at 3:21 PM

As volunteers, wouldn’t most members have day jobs that provide health insurance already? My home town back in Delaware, such would be the case… Seems like a non-issue…

HornHiAceDeuce on December 10, 2013 at 3:03 PM

You didn’t read the post, did you? This has to do with the employer mandate since the IRS considers volunteers to be employees. Guess who enforces Obamacare?

By Obamacare, VFDs would have to offer healthcare to any volunteer working more than 30 hours. And how do you define that- is being on call considered working? Simply put, requiring VFDs to offer healthcare or even forcing them to take the penalty for not doing so would be financial ruin to organizations that require on stuff like pancake breakfasts for their funding.

Happy Nomad on December 10, 2013 at 3:22 PM

Bingo. Paid departments will need to expand to pick up the slack caused by closed vol units. That means more union-members and, most importantly, more income from dues.

WarEagle01 on December 10, 2013 at 3:21 PM

Also means higher local taxes.

Happy Nomad on December 10, 2013 at 3:23 PM

Lou, I know you’re trying to help your constituents and that’s mighty admirable but sometimes you have to let it burn.

Kafir on December 10, 2013 at 3:03 PM

I guess I’m going to have to invest in some more garden hoses.

MontanaMmmm on December 10, 2013 at 3:24 PM

bet it will be even worse for towns like the one I was volunteer for.
we kept a call and training timesheet.
at the end of the year whatever was left in budget was divided according to the timesheet.
the town provided coverage during training and fighting fire, basically a worker comp type.
so the argument would be made we were paid.

this will kill so many depts and will devastate communities.

dmacleo on December 10, 2013 at 3:28 PM

Except that most firehouses are volunteer firehouses, as you pointed out in your own post. Is this administration really so stupid as to potentially shutdown 71% of firehouses? Wait, don’t answer that…

NotCoach on December 10, 2013 at 2:49 PM

You’re talking about an administration that is willing to shutdown Catholic social services (including hospitals) to push their contraceptive mandate.

blammm on December 10, 2013 at 3:28 PM

Most volunteer firefighters are on call 24/7 (i.e., most of them would qualify).

blammm on December 10, 2013 at 3:30 PM

Happy Nomad on December 10, 2013 at 3:22 PM

I read the post. However, as a full-time employee of one organization that provides me healthcare coverage, I’m precluded from getting coverage from another orgnaization. If no one in a volunteer fire company needs health insurance, why would the company be compelled to provide it? Seems like a pretty thin pretex to unionize fire companies, but maybe I’m just being naïve…

HornHiAceDeuce on December 10, 2013 at 3:33 PM

If no one in a volunteer fire company needs health insurance, why would the company be compelled to provide it?

HornHiAceDeuce on December 10, 2013 at 3:33 PM

Because the law doesn’t have a “we don’t need it” provision. And, I’m not sure that what you say is entirely true that everybody in a given VFD is going to have health insurance from another source.

Happy Nomad on December 10, 2013 at 3:41 PM

I read the post. However, as a full-time employee of one organization that provides me healthcare coverage, I’m precluded from getting coverage from another orgnaization. If no one in a volunteer fire company needs health insurance, why would the company be compelled to provide it? Seems like a pretty thin pretex to unionize fire companies, but maybe I’m just being naïve…

HornHiAceDeuce on December 10, 2013 at 3:33 PM

This administration specializes in thin pretexts.

Steve Eggleston on December 10, 2013 at 3:41 PM

“We have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it.” Heaven knows how many planned and unplanned booby traps are in ObamaCare just waiting to be discovered. 1/6 of the nation’s economy and the bill was passed without anyone reading it or without any discussion.

bw222 on December 10, 2013 at 3:41 PM

Fun follow-up question: does Obama know this is in the bill? Half the fun of this game is figuring out whether it’s ignorance, ineptitude, or malice. If it’s all three you do a shot.

Zoomie on December 10, 2013 at 3:50 PM

This administration specializes in thin pretexts.

Steve Eggleston on December 10, 2013 at 3:41 PM

Agreed. However, it’s one thing to say, “I don’t want coverage” and quite another to say, “I have coverage already and cannot buy more.” Seems like that would have to be considered in the calculus here.

HornHiAceDeuce on December 10, 2013 at 3:53 PM

Agreed. However, it’s one thing to say, “I don’t want coverage” and quite another to say, “I have coverage already and cannot buy more.” Seems like that would have to be considered in the calculus here.

HornHiAceDeuce on December 10, 2013 at 3:53 PM

On the coverage front, once an entity crosses the 50 “full”-time-equivalents per week threshhold, it must either offer health insurance to the “full”-timers or pay a $2,000/”full”-timer/year ta…er…penalty. For the purposes of the employer mandate, it doesn’t matter whether the “full”-timer has insurance from another source.

Steve Eggleston on December 10, 2013 at 3:59 PM

“We have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it.” Heaven knows how many planned and unplanned booby traps are in ObamaCare just waiting to be discovered. 1/6 of the nation’s economy and the bill was passed without anyone reading it or without any discussion.

bw222 on December 10, 2013 at 3:41 PM

You mean like how many other volunteer organizations are going have to account for the hours of their volunteers as mandatory reporting to the IRS?

Happy Nomad on December 10, 2013 at 3:59 PM

Fun follow-up question: does Obama know this is in the bill? Half the fun of this game is figuring out whether it’s ignorance, ineptitude, or malice. If it’s all three you do a shot.

Zoomie on December 10, 2013 at 3:50 PM

He might find out what his IRS has done when (or if) the WaPo and MSNBC catch up to regional and British newspapers.

Steve Eggleston on December 10, 2013 at 4:00 PM

Fun follow-up question: does Obama know this is in the bill? Half the fun of this game is figuring out whether it’s ignorance, ineptitude, or malice. If it’s all three you do a shot.

Zoomie on December 10, 2013 at 3:50 PM

I’m guessing nobody will be madder than he when he finds out.

Happy Nomad on December 10, 2013 at 4:01 PM

How long until the US Army puts a stop to this zhit?!

Seriously!

Take your oaths seriously soldiers, and defend us from enemies domestic.

Akzed on December 10, 2013 at 4:05 PM

Thuggery at it’s best and that’s what this scum of the earth lowlife is good at, Chicago Thuggery.

tmgrant on December 10, 2013 at 4:16 PM

viking01 on December 10, 2013 at 2:45 PM

vityas on December 10, 2013 at 2:53 PM

dogsoldier on December 10, 2013 at 3:06 PM

All very good hypotheses.

Dr. ZhivBlago on December 10, 2013 at 4:22 PM

On the coverage front, once an entity crosses the 50 “full”-time-equivalents per week threshhold, it must either offer health insurance to the “full”-timers or pay a $2,000/”full”-timer/year ta…er…penalty. For the purposes of the employer mandate, it doesn’t matter whether the “full”-timer has insurance from another source.

Steve Eggleston on December 10, 2013 at 3:59 PM

I am curious how a volunteer fire department would pay the penalty. They’re not a business but a local government entity. Do they even file an income tax return with the IRS?

Bitter Clinger on December 10, 2013 at 4:24 PM

Time to upgrade the VFD maps to include red house and blue houses, that way they’ll know when to bring the truck and when pissing on the fire will suffice.

antipc on December 10, 2013 at 4:30 PM

Let it burn, literally.

Schadenfreude on December 10, 2013 at 5:06 PM

Fun follow-up question: does Obama know this is in the bill? Half the fun of this game is figuring out whether it’s ignorance, ineptitude, or malice. If it’s all three you do a shot.

Zoomie on December 10, 2013 at 3:50 PM

I’m not as think as you drunk I am! Yet

lfwest on December 10, 2013 at 5:06 PM

I am curious how a volunteer fire department would pay the penalty. They’re not a business but a local government entity. Do they even file an income tax return with the IRS?

Bitter Clinger on December 10, 2013 at 4:24 PM

We know that local government entities (cities) are already required to obey Obamacare. Townships wouldn’t be any different.

dominigan on December 10, 2013 at 5:43 PM

They ain’t union hint, hint…..

viking01 on December 10, 2013 at 2:45 PM

…you betcha!

KOOLAID2 on December 10, 2013 at 9:28 PM

How is it that the irs classifies volunteers as employees? Aren’t employees paid and vols not so much. This is looking more like that geico commercial where the pyramid architect is looking from his plans to what’s actually being built and whispering uh oh. Maybe that’s where Cruella got the idea for making this sh*t up as she goes along.

Kissmygrits on December 11, 2013 at 8:39 AM