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Here's one more of those glitches a massive law like the Affordable Care Act is bound to have, a glitch that would be easily fixed legislatively, if the opposition party was interested in fixing it rather than politicizing it. First it was how to make sure that congressional staff didn't lose their employer contribution to their health insurance premiums. Now it's about volunteer firefighters.

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 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.).

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.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Thu Jan 09, 2014 at 03:14 PM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (17+ / 0-)

    "The NSA’s capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything. [...] There would be no place to hide."--Frank Church

    by Joan McCarter on Thu Jan 09, 2014 at 03:14:24 PM PST

  •  They have totally forgotten how to GOVERN?! (4+ / 0-)

    ...or did they never know in the first place?  It's ALL about making political hay rather than serving we the people (unless, of course, corporations are people).

    Just fix the darn thing and let us all get back to work.

  •  First of all ... I don't understand the concept (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sajiocity, lurkyloo

    of a volunteer fire department to begin with. These brave souls should be on our communal payroll. I don't care where the money comes from ... perhaps our federal government could build one or two fewer fighter jets?

    Secondly, health insurance coverage should be fundamental compensation for the service these folks provide.

    Sometimes I get really annoyed when we argue about the peripheral issues and ignore the elephant in the room.

    "Let us not look back to the past with anger, nor towards the future with fear, but look around with awareness." James Thurber

    by annan on Thu Jan 09, 2014 at 07:32:40 PM PST

    •  These flag waving cretins (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      annan, Calamity Jean

      who praise "our brave first responders," were also first in line to shut the entire government down over the same issue they knew they had no chance of winning.
      Since that worked so well, they're gonna try, try again while Americans (some of whom they love) suffer.

      Just another thought: I wonder how many of these volunteer firefighters voted tea party?

    •  my thoughts exactly (0+ / 0-)

      I understand they are volunteers, but if they are employees then obviously some compensation is possible. Basic health insurance, especially in the current environment, should not be that much a stretch.  It seems to me if they want to keep volunteer fire fighters, they should include this as part of the 'thanks for helping' package.

      Here is my anecdote.  A friend of a friend, you see already trustworthy, was a volunteer firefighter somewhere in the Northeast, can't remember where, maybe New York.  Anyway, he needed glasses , and could not afford them.  It really seemed unfair to me because he was out there saving people's homes and lives and did not even have money so he could study.  In any case, the community did get together and given him the money to buy a pair of glasses.

      What I thought was strange was that they way they did it was like charity, like he was a person who needed assistance.  Really, they were the ones that needed the assistance, as they would not pay for fully funded fire department, and he was just a guy who did not have enough money because he was not a capitalist who fully monetized his skill.

      It seems to me that this is just another way to make sure that our first responders, and not wealthy, individuals are denied benifits.  Like the 12 people who died fighting fires in Prescott, Ar, then the families were told they were seasonal employees, so would get no benefits.  Where is the conservative outrage over that?

    •  well (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      in every place I've lived that's had a volunteer force there was a) a paid force nearby and all of the area's departments mutual aid agreements. b) there were taxes collected via the township that helped pay to keep the department open and running.

    •  small towns don't have the tax base or usage (0+ / 0-)

      for a full time FD.

      instead they have one full time employee who drives the truck to a fire site and the others show up

  •  Make every one suffer to increase their paychecks (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Calamity Jean

    The puppets will do what ever they are told to do by their rich benefactors no matter who it hurts. They know this will keep Democrats in office for another 40 years if they don't derail it. Methinks the tracks are good, the train is coming down it and the only question is at what speed.

    Our money system is not what we have been led to believe. The creation of money has been "privatized," or taken over by private money lenders. Thomas Jefferson called them “bold and bankrupt adventurers just pretending to have money.” webofdebt

    by arealniceguy on Thu Jan 09, 2014 at 11:00:32 PM PST

  •  fire departments are socialist anyway, arent they? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    If your house burns, you should pay to put out the fire yourself, you moocher.


    In the end, reality always wins.

    by Lenny Flank on Fri Jan 10, 2014 at 05:47:55 PM PST

  •  What does this have to do with BRIDGEGHAZI!!! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    patbahn, Bailey2001

    "Reagan's dead, and he was a lousy president" -- Keith Olbermann 4/22/09

    by kovie on Fri Jan 10, 2014 at 05:57:09 PM PST

  •  save america (0+ / 0-)

    defeat all republicans!

  •  I don't understand what is wrong... (0+ / 0-)

    ...with this.

    If a volunteer" is receiving benefits (retirement pensions, stipends, and "other perks"), they are not volunteers, they are employees as they are being compensated for their time and effort.

    It's admitted that such compensation "helps them recruit and keep those volunteers" -- just like a salary does.

    This is above and beyond just reimbursing for expenses (such as for personal firefighting gear or cleaning of same) or giving out a tee shirt to volunteers who worked on a project or providing lunch during an all day volunteer effort.

    Many "volunteer" organizations have employees who are compensated and volunteers who are not. These firefighters appear to be compensated employees. One wonders if they are paid minimum wage and, if not, why not.

    It seems that any "volunteer" firefighting agency with more than 50 "volunteers" who work more than 30 hours a week should be hiring the firefighters as, potentially part time, employees making them subject to workman's comp, unemployment benefits, etc.

    •  Small towns don't have the funds for a full time (0+ / 0-)

      FD.  They just don't....and yes, the volunteers often work quite a bit even more than 30 hours.  My father was one in a small town for years and not only do they deal with fires but loose live stock, wild animal encounters, medical emergencies, elderly services for the old or disabled, school field trips etc etc etc....all for no wages at all.

      •  Then... (0+ / 0-)

        ...why do they need to provide "benefits" (pensions, in particular) to attract "volunteers"? Volunteers are, by definition, uncompensated.

        Benefits are "wages" by another name. There is a reason they are considered "employees" for tax purposes -- because they ARE. If the private sector tried to play a game like this, they couldn't get away with it.

        I suspect that there are very few "small towns" that have a volunteer FD that has more than 50 volunteers that work, over a three month period, 30 hours or more a week (note that "being on call" is usually NOT considered "working" in the private sector for a salaried employee).

  •  Treasury sent Sen Casey a letter this week (0+ / 0-)

    saying this would be taken care of.

  •  Maybe it's time for a full time Fire Department? (0+ / 0-)

    If they have more than 50 volunteers working 30+ hours per week, maybe it's time to look into a full time fire department.

    Not many people can hold down a full time job to pay the bills and still have time to fight fires for free for another 30+ hours per week... I certainly don't

  •  A glitch! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Good god.  Did know one read the bill before it was passed?

  •  The fix (0+ / 0-)

    "But it's still a fix that could be made pretty easily. But Republicans don't want to fix anything about Obamacare"

    Gee, who coulda imagined that such a finely crafted bill, written by one party and passed by one party over the fierce opposition of the other party—who could have predicted that the other party would not eagerly cooperate in fixing things later? Just, like, totally unexpected.

    •  The GOP had their chance at the table. (0+ / 0-)

      all sorts of deals were put in and the GOP walked back
      on their agreements.

      •  Myth of bipartisan input (0+ / 0-)

        You ought to read the full paper cited below, just to fully understand what a complete dog's dinner the legislative process was for Obamacare.

        The minority party, left out of the extra-committee consultations and usually unwilling to provide any positive input, is relegated to advancing futile amendments to embarrass the majority.59 Thus, the intensive committee discussion of the form legislation should take no longer occurs.
        ¶17 This lack of public committee deliberation is clear in the House committee markups of the health care legislation. Having already drafted House bill 3200, the markups of the Education and Labor and Ways and Means committees represented housekeeping rather than robust debate. For example, the Education and Labor Committee passed an amendment in the nature of a substitute which simply fine- tuned and expanded coverage under the original bill and called for more consumer protection provisions.
        And, in the end:
        The reconciliation legislation was born from negotiations between White House officials and Democratic congressional leaders, again working outside of the traditional legislative process.
        •  lets see (0+ / 0-)
          More    rancor    emerged    in    the    Committee    on    Energy    and    Commerce,    where   
          the    fiscally    conservative    “Blue    Dog”    Democrats    held    sway    and    made    known    their   
          unhappiness    with    the    cost    and    size    of    the    health    care    bill.63    Withholding    their    votes   
          as    leverage,    the    Blue    Dogs    managed    to    win    several    changes    to    the    bill    in    intense   
          bargaining    with    Committee    Chairman    Henry    Waxman,    Speaker    Pelosi,    and    White   
          House    Chief    of    Staff    Rahm    Emanuel,    including    reductions    in    its    cost    and    limiting   
          the    public    insurance    plan    so    that    private    insurers    could    more    easily    compete    against   
          it.64    But    even    this    committee    dispute    was    discussed    outside    of    the    markup,    taking   
          place    behind    the    scenes    or    in    the    press.65    The    Energy    and    Commerce    Committee   
          finished    its    work    on    July    31,    2009,    with    a    more    scaled-back    version    of    House    bill   
        •  the House is a dictatorship (0+ / 0-)

          leadership and the chairmen do it all,

          have done so for years.

          Ever hear of something called the Patriot Act?

          Hastert moved that in one legislative day.

  •  They need to fix this ASAP, so it can not be (0+ / 0-)

    used as political hay....AND it is just the right thing to do for these people.

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