Treasury Department clarifies treatment of volunteer firefighters in health care law

The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service will issue proposed regulations that clarify how volunteer firefighters and first responders are defined in the new health care law according to Sen. Michael Bennet. The proposal will make it clear that volunteer emergency service workers are not required to be counted as full-time employees for purposes of employer-sponsored healthcare coverage.

“Volunteer firefighters are extremely valuable members of Colorado communities, especially in rural areas where volunteers are the only emergency service personnel available,” Bennet said. “This commonsense clarification will ensure that our volunteer agencies are treated fairly by the health care law.”

Without this clarification, fire departments and other emergency response units that rely heavily on volunteers could have been forced to eliminate emergency responders and/or reduce training and emergency response hours, since the cost of complying with the employer requirements in the health care law would have been nearly impossible to meet. Colorado is home to more than 300 volunteer fire departments.

Last month, Bennet cosponsored the Protect Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act, which amends the Affordable Care Act to make it clear that volunteer emergency service workers are not required to be counted as full-time employees. This bipartisan bill was introduced by Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Mark Warner (D-VA), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Angus King (I-ME), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Mark Begich (D-AK). It has been endorsed by the International Association of Fire Chiefs, National Volunteer Fire Council, and Congressional Fire Services Institute.

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