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WASHINGTON – Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, is warning that volunteer fire departments may become unintended victims of the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that many employers offer health insurance.

“It has come to my attention that volunteer fire companies could be forced to pay for health insurance for volunteer firefighters,” Collins said in a letter to Daniel Werfel, acting commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service. “Such a mandate would destroy the fabric of volunteer fire companies that protect our communities and would pose serious harm to families that are served by these volunteers.”

While the IRS has not yet said that volunteer fire companies would have to offer health care, Collins noted that the IRS has in the past treated volunteers as employees. That being the case, he said, fire and EMS companies could be subject to the mandate of “Obamacare” that employers of 50 or more people offer insurance to employees who work more than 30 hours a week, he said, noting that volunteer firefighters frequently work that long.

Requiring volunteer fire companies to offer health insurance would produce “a public safety disaster,” Collins told Werfel.

“Volunteer fire and EMS agencies do not have the resources to provide their members with health insurance, often raising money to keep their facilities running by selling raffle tickets or holding small community carnivals and cookouts,” Collins noted.