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'Obamacare' could hit some fire departments hard

 
'Obamacare' could hit some fire departments hard
Posted Thursday, January 9th 2014 @ 12pm  by WTVN Newsroom

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WTVN) -- President Obama's Affordable Care Act could have some unintended consequences for smaller fire departments around the nation. Many rural and small communities rely on volunteer firefighters or in some cases part-time firefighters. Until now, those firefighters have not been provided health care benefits. However, the law requires employers with 50 or more employees working at least 30 hours a week to provide health insurance.

"They can't afford to provide benefits in the first place and the requirement to do so is potentially devastating," said Scioto Township Fire Chief Porter Welch who is also president of the Ohio Fire Chiefs' Association.

Part-time employees would only need to work more than 30 hours one time to be considered full-time. Welch says if there are a high number of emergency calls or a large fire many of those employees could easily reach 30 hours.

His fire department in Pickaway County has an on-duty staff of four full-time and two part-time firefighters for each shift. The total roster of 12 full-timers and 19 part-time firefighters.

"There's no way we could afford to basically double or almost triple our health insurance costs," Welch said.

He's hoping that the Internal Revenue Service will clarify the law and make an exemption for fire departments. There are also two bills pending on Capitol Hill that would create an exemption.

"The way things are operating right now, we're not comfortable in saying one way or the other this legislation is going to pass and everything is going to be okay," he said.

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