It turns out, many volunteer firefighters are considered employees of small and rural fire departments for tax purposes. It allows the fire departments to provide stipends, retirement benefits, and other perks to their volunteers which helps them recruit and keep those volunteers. Under the ACA, these "employees" could count against the 50 employee threshold for the employer requirement to provide insurance or pay a fine. This could force fire departments who have more than 50 employees, or who are so busy that volunteers can rack up 30 hours of firefighting ever week, to limit the number of hours their volunteers can work, or drop them entirely. It's also something that could have a relatively simple legislative fix. But for now, Republicans seem more interested in politicizing the problem than fixing it.
ObamaCare might create headaches for volunteer fire departments—and the National Republican Senatorial Committee wants to pin the blame on the Senate Democrats who voted for the law.The Republicans are definitely overstating the problem here: not many of the fire departments in question will have so many volunteers or have those volunteers spending more than 30 hours a week on fires. But it's still a fix that could be made pretty easily. But Republicans don't want to fix anything about Obamacare, even to help fire departments. Not if they think they can get a political advantage out of keeping it broken.
The NRSC will send out press releases [Thursday] morning slamming more than a dozen Democratic senators and candidates for backing the law, which they say is endangering volunteer fire departments.
"ObamaCare has been a disaster, and now volunteer firefighters and the communities that rely on them are the latest victims of Mark Warner's terrible law," said NRSC press secretary Brook Hougesen in the version of the upcoming release targeting Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.).