After a bipartisan push for a solution to the potential problem of requiring volunteer fire departments to provide health care to its members, the Internal Revenue Service has announced that the volunteer firefighters and emergency medical personnel will be exempt from the Affordable Care Act's employer mandate.
“I’m pleased that the IRS has clarified that volunteer firefighters and other volunteer emergency responders will not be considered as employees for the purposes of the ACA’s employer responsibility requirements,” said Senator Bob Casey (D-PA).
Some fire companies with more than 50 volunteer firefighters raised concerns about whether they would be required to provide health insurance for these volunteers under the ACA. With already tight budgets, many volunteer fire companies were worried about the uncertainty of additional costs, according to a statement from Senator Casey's office.
During questioning of IRS Director John Koskinen during his confirmation hearing in December 2013, Casey secured a promise from Koskinen that he would look into the issue upon his appointment as head of the agency.
"These final regulations, which we expect to issue shortly, are intended to provide timely guidance for the volunteer emergency responder community," said Mark Mazur, assistant secretary for tax policy in the U.S. Treasury's office. "We think this guidance strikes the appropriate balance in the treatment provided to traditional full-time emergency responder employees, bona fide volunteers, and to our nation’s first responder units, many of which rely heavily on volunteers."
At the same time, Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick introduced legislation that would clarify the ruling on volunteer firefighters' status in regards to the ACA. According to the healthcare law, employers with more than 50 full-time employees must provide health care to the employees or pay a tax.
“After several months, it was time for the Internal Revenue Service to make a call regarding the status of volunteer fire fighters under the health care law," said Fitzpatrick in a statement. "Thankfully for our community emergency responders, they made the right one. With over 90 percent of fire departments in Pennsylvania being manned by volunteers, this ruling is crucial to their continued operation and success. I look forward to reviewing the final rulings to ensure that our brave first responders are not harmed by further misguided mandates."