Frelinghuysen: ACA will hurt fire departments

Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) appealed to the IRS to consider the consequences of a provision of the Affordable Care Act that requires fire departments to provide healthcare to volunteers in a recent letter.

The employer shared responsibilities provision of the ACA classifies volunteer emergency responders as employees for tax purposes. That means municipalities will face penalties for not providing health coverage to people who volunteer for more than 30 hours a week.

“The vast majority of volunteers I speak with do not expect to receive health insurance from their departments,” Frelinghuysen said. “Volunteer firefighters and EMS responders do not see their work as a career or a part-time job – it’s a call to serve the community.”

In a letter to acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel, Frelinghuysen expressed concern that fire departments across the country would eliminate services because of the mandate.

The congressman added that many volunteer fire and EMS departments operate on a “shoe-string budget” and are already hard-pressed to make ends meet.

“As the IRS continues to implement provisions of the ACA, I respectfully request that (Werfel) consider the unintended consequences of this classification,” Frelinghuysen said.

Frelinghuysen has cosponsored a bill that would exempt fire departments from providing coverage to volunteers.