Bill to define volunteer firefighters not as full time employees

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. There is a lot of confusing language in the Affordable Care Act but one thing that is clear is volunteer fire departments could shut down.

That is because volunteer firefighters and other emergency responders are considered full time employees and are therefore required to be covered by health insurance.

The cost to insure them could put these community assets out of business.

Senator Michael Bennet is cosponsoring a bipartisan bill to clarify how firefighters and other first responders are defined under Obamacare.

The Protect Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act amends the Affordable Care Act to make it clear that volunteer emergency services are not required to be counted as full time employees, that way they will be able to keep on protecting the communities relying on them.

The cost to insure dozens of volunteer firefighters would put a serious strain on departments already working with small budgets.

"We don't have enough money left at the end of the year to even begin to file for insurance for all our volunteers," Dave Gitchell, Central Orchard Mesa Fire Department.

Fire departments with 50 or more people are required to provide insurance. If the law drains their small budgets they will be forced to close.

The next step for this bill is to wait for the IRS to officially issue its final ruling on how volunteers will be defined.

If the definition treats them as full time employees they will be more aggressive in their pursuit to get the bill passed.

Although Senator Bennet is still gathering people to support this bill, there is already a promising amount shown.

Nearly 70 representatives in the House and a dozen, both democrats and republicans in the Senate have responded positively to the bill.

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