Saturday, Mar 8, 2014
Affordable Care Act Impacts Volunteer Fire Departments
CARTERVILLE -- Under the Affordable Care Act emergency response departments could be forced to provide volunteer workers with health care coverage. The additional expense could put a real strain on limited resources.
"We have volunteers," said Carterville Fire Chief Bruce Talley. "We have 18 on the payroll."
More than half of the fire fighters at the Carterville fire department are volunteers. It's a system that has been used to successfully fight fires for years, but that system may soon be disrupted if the department is forced to make cuts because of the Affordable Care Act.
"We may have to cut back on the number of volunteers which would then degrade the department to the point of not being able to provide the services we have been accustomed to since the 40's and 50's," explained Talley.
Under the Act, employers with at least 50-full-time workers, like the city of Carterville which funds the fire department, are required to provide health insurance for employees or volunteers who work more than 30 hours a week.
"Our volunteers could easily reach a 30 hour week," said Talley.
The mandate could create a severe financial hardship for volunteer departments across the country.
"If the fire or EMS agency is part of a municipality or unit of government and it's determined that the unit of government is the employer. You could see a lot more agencies being part of units that are considered large employers," said National Volunteer Fire Council's David Finger.
Legislation to alter the mandate and exclude volunteers from coverage was introduced in both the House and the Senate last week, but it's still a concern for many of those involved.
"We are a little bit limited on what we can spend money on," said Talley. "If we are already under some sort of constraint. To have this inflicted on us would be devastating certainly."
Wind: 5 MPH
Humidity: 86 %