Barr: Don’t Let Obamacare Extinguish Volunteer Firefighters

Helps Introduce Legislation to Ensure Emergency Services Volunteers Are Not Counted as Full-Time Employees Under Obamacare's Employer Mandate

December 11, 2013

WASHINGTON - After hearing from folks across the Sixth District about their concerns and sending a letter to IRS Acting Commissioner Werfel seeking clarification about how Obamacare treats volunteer firefighters under the employer mandate, yesterday Congressman Andy Barr helped introduce H.R. 3685, the Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act.

“Unfortunately, the more we learn about Obamacare, the more disappointing it becomes,” said Congressman Barr.  “I am disappointed that President Obama’s healthcare law is not only wreaking havoc on American families, small businesses and our economy, but now could be endangering our communities that rely on emergency response services provided by volunteer firefighters and EMTs.”

Barr is an original cosponsor of this legislation authored by Congressman Lou Barletta (PA), which would simply ensure that emergency services volunteers are not counted as full-time employees under the employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act. Emergency services volunteers would include: volunteer firefighters and volunteers providing emergency medical services.

Barr continued, “Forcing volunteer fire companies to comply with the employer mandate will potentially lead to the closure of firehouses and layoff of volunteer firefighters as the fire companies try to avoid classification as a large employer. And considering that over 90 percent of fire departments in Kentucky are either fully or mostly volunteer, we must do everything we can to ensure that our brave and selfless volunteer firefighters do not become the next victim of Obamacare’s costly mandates.

The legislation is supported by the National Volunteer Fire Council and the International Association of Fire Chiefs. 

“It is critically important that fire and EMS agencies not be forced to offer health insurance to volunteer personnel,” said Philip C. Stittleburg, Chairman of the National Volunteer Fire Council.  “Agencies don’t have the resources to provide health benefits to their volunteers and individual volunteers have no expectation of receiving such benefits from the agencies they serve.  On behalf of the National Volunteer Fire Council I’d like to thank Congressman Barletta and all of the original co-sponsors for introducing this legislation to clarify that volunteers will not be treated as employees under the health care reform law.”

“The IAFC strongly supports Rep. Barletta’s bill to clarify the status of volunteer firefighters under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” said Chief William Metcalf, President of the International Association of Fire Chiefs.  “This is a bipartisan issue which could have serious impacts on staffing at fire departments across the United States. The IAFC looks forward to working with Congress and the Administration to help ensure fire departments of all types are able to continue saving lives and serving their communities.”

Click here for Congressman Barr’s letter to IRS Acting Commissioner Werfel seeking clarification about how the Affordable Care Act treats these volunteer firefighters under the employer mandate.