Obamacare: What about those volunteer firefighters?

December 11, 2013 0 Comments

firefighters-obamacare1
firefighters-obamacare1

Obamacare was pushed through Congress at high speed, without much debate and without the usual haggling. The reason was that, like thieves in a hurry to grab what they could and get out safely before being caught, Democrats were eager to move the legislation through while they still had the momentum to succeed.

They figured they’d iron out any problems later, and in the meantime would try to sell the Act to a reluctant public. Spinning and outright lying were delaying tactics until the longed-for day when Obamacare would be implemented and people would love it—that is, enough people would love it—and it would become the new normal, assuring Democrats of a built-in constituency of grateful recipients fearful that a vote for any Republican would do away with their new-found benefits.

And maybe it will end up working out just like that.

But speed has its drawbacks. The bill was so long and convoluted, its effects so manifold and various, that some of the consequences were bound to hurt groups the Democrats didn’t want to hurt. One such group, of course, was unions. But that was taken care of by a handy—if unconstitutional—waiver.

Maybe this new wrinkle will ultimately be handled in a similar manner. But in the meantime, marvel at the wonder of it all:

The U.S. Department of Labor takes the term ‘volunteer’ literally, but the IRS says volunteer firefighters are technically employees if they’re on the job more than 30 hours per week, making them subject to Obamacare’s employee-mandate rules…

Since the Obamacare law doesn’t specifically carve out an exemption for them, fire departments where 50 or more people work – either as volunteers or officially as employees – are expected to provide health insurance for every one of them.

In towns with more than one volunteer fire department, all the staffers will likely be lumped together for tax purposes, pushing many municipalities above the 50-worker threshold.

That could cost departments of life-savers hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. Those that dump their volunteers into the federal insurance exchanges would still have to pay an annual $2,000 fine for each ‘employee’ after the first 30.

“I can tell you right now we can’t afford it,” East Derry, Pennsylvania Fire Company Chief Edward Mann told the Patriot-News. “While a volunteer fire department may not have a payroll, the rest of it isn’t free. The only part that is free is the labor.”

The article goes on to mention that 71% of America’s fire departments are volunteer, while another 16% are mostly volunteer. Many could be in big, big trouble because of Obamacare, although it’s unclear how the 30 hours would be calculated; they might include time with a beeper or waiting around the station house.

I predict another waiver.

Obamacare is well on its way toward creating a more stratified system of health insurance than existed before, and it has already created dangerous precedents for the extension of unchecked executive power.

[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]

(Featured image credit: FOX43/Yahoo News video)

   





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