Associations, Fire Department, News

Legislation Introduced Clarifying Volunteers not Subject to Employer Mandate

Legislation Introduced Clarifying Volunteer Firefighters not Subject to Employer Mandate

On December 10, legislation was introduced in the House by Representative Lou Barletta (R-PA) and the Senate by Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) clarifying that “qualified emergency services volunteers” will not be counted as employees under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). If enacted, the Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act (H.R. 3685/S. 1798) would make clear that fire and EMS agencies will not be required to offer volunteer personnel health insurance, even if they receive other nominal benefits.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) considers volunteers who receive nominal benefits to be common law employees of the agencies that they serve. The PPACA requires large employers to provide full-time employees with health insurance coverage. Because it falls to the IRS to enforce the PPACA mandate that employers provide health insurance, many fire and EMS departments could end up facing penalties starting in 2015 if they do not offer health insurance benefits to their volunteers.

In September, the NVFC sent the IRS a letter requesting clarification in the final implementing regulations for the PPACA that volunteers will not be treated as employees under the law. Since then, Representatives Peter King (R-NY), Patrick Meehan (R-PA), Rob Wittman (R-VA), Chris Collins (R-NY), Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), Lou Barletta (R-PA), and Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) have followed up with similar formal letters to the IRS asking for clarification on behalf of the volunteer emergency services. As of now the IRS has not indicated how it will proceed, which prompted the introduction of H.R. 3685 and S. 1798.

“It is critically important that fire and EMS agencies not be forced to offer health insurance to volunteer personnel,” said NVFC Chairman Philip C. Stittleburg. “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. I’d like to thank all of the bill sponsors from both parties for coming together and introducing this legislation.”

Co-sponsors of S. 1798 include Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Patrick Toomey (R-PA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Angus King (I-ME), and Mark Begich (D-AK). H.R. 3685 is co-sponsored by Representatives Patrick Meehan (R-PA), Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Jon Runyan (R-NJ), Michael Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Scott Perry (R-PA), Glenn Thompson (R-PA), Leonard Lance (R-NJ), David P. Joyce (R-OH), Mike Simpson (R-ID), Jim Renacci (R-OH), Jim Gerlach (R-PA), Bill Huizenga (R-MI), Michael Grimm (R-NY), Austin Scott (R-GA), Rodney Davis (R-IL), Richard Hanna (R-NY), David McKinley (R-WV), Jackie Walorski (R-IN), Stephen Fincher (R-TN), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Bill Shuster (R-PA), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Joe Pitts (R-NY), Chris Collins (R-NY), Spencer Bachus (R-AL), Walter Jones (R-NC), Andy Barr (R-KY), Kristi Noem (R-SD), Candice S. Miller (R-MI), Tom Marino (R-PA), John Shimkus (R-IL), Keith Rothfus (R-PA), Todd Young (R-IN), and Lynn Jenkins (R-KS).