Bill to Exempt Volunteer Responders From Obamacare Gathers Support

Tuesday, 24 Dec 2013 10:19 PM

By JOE SCHAEFFER

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A bill that would allow volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel to be exempt from the Affordable Care Act has garnered substantial support on Capitol Hill.

More than 100 members of Congress have come out in support of the Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act, The Hill reported Tuesday.

"Properly distinguishing between full-time, paid emergency responders and volunteers is necessary if we want to protect essential emergency response agencies that keep our communities safe and protect over one-third of the U.S. population," said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., who introduced the bill in the Senate.

The Senate bill has 23 co-sponsors from both parties.

The House version has been introduced by Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., and has attracted 76 co-sponsors from the two parties.

"Since there is also a bipartisan companion bill in the Senate, I am optimistic that we can have a floor vote on it in the House early in the new year," Barletta said, The Hill reported.

Fire and emergency responders have expressed fears that the increased costs of Obamacare could seriously hamper their departments, Fox News reports.

The ACA requires businesses with more than 50 employees to provide health insurance coverage. Whether the IRS considers the volunteers to be full-time employees is not clear, as it has yet to rule on the issue.

The administration has delayed implementation of the employer mandate until 2015 as officials move to simplify the regulations. It was to begin Jan. 1, 2014.

"At this point, it's pretty much wait and see," Michael Berg, president of the Charlottesville-Albemarle Rescue Squad in Virginia, told The Daily Progress, Fox News reports. "We're an all-volunteer organization . . . There's a lot of speculation."

"This is just another example of how Obamacare was not well thought-out," Barletta said. "So, we're left to try to pave over the potholes. And this is a big one, possibly affecting fire stations nationwide."

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