Fairfax, Va. – The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) today applauded the U.S. House of Representatives' passage of legislation, strongly supported by the IAFC, to protect American volunteer fire departments from costly unintended consequences of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).
The Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act (H.R. 33), sponsored by Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.), was passed unanimously Monday night by the House and will now be considered in the Senate. Despite overwhelming bipartisan support in both chambers, similar legislation last year failed to receive final passage due to an unrelated Senate amendment.
Under the shared responsibility provision of the PPACA, an employer with 50 or more fulltime employees must offer affordable and adequate healthcare coverage to its employees. Under the law, fulltime means working 30 hours or more per week on average. The IAFC raised serious concerns about how this requirement would affect fire departments that rely on volunteers who frequently volunteer more than 30 hours a week to protect their communities.
The association's efforts included educating both members of Congress and the Administration. As a result, the Treasury Department last January issued clarification that health insurance will not have to be provided to volunteer firefighters. Rep. Barletta’s bill codifies Treasury’s 2014 clarification, which said the shared responsibility provision "generally will not require volunteer hours of bona fide volunteer firefighters and volunteer emergency medical personnel at governmental or tax-exempt organizations to be counted when determining full-time employees (or full-time equivalents).”
"The IAFC thanks Rep. Barletta for once again standing up for the fire and emergency service,” said Chief G. Keith Bryant, the IAFC's president and chairman of the board. "Volunteer firefighters perform essential community service at great risk in all 50 states. We urge the House and Senate to secure final passage of the bipartisan legislation and remove once and for all an unintended consequence of healthcare reform.”
Of the 30,100 fire departments in the U.S., more than 20,000 of them are all-volunteer departments. Another 5,500 of them are mostly volunteer and nearly 2,000 others utilize some volunteer firefighters, according to the National Fire Protection Association (2012 statistics). Sixty-nine percent of the 1.1 million firefighters are volunteer firefighters.
About the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC)
The IAFC represents the leadership of firefighters and emergency responders worldwide. IAFC members are the world's leading experts in firefighting, emergency medical services, terrorism response, hazardous materials spills, natural disasters, search and rescue, and public safety legislation. Since 1873, the IAFC has provided a forum for its members to exchange ideas, develop professionally and uncover the latest products and services available to first responders. Learn more