Volunteer EMTs exempt from Obamacare rule

Volunteer emergency services agencies were concerned that under the Affordable Care Act they were being considered 'employers'

The Press of Atlantic City

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Treasury Department and IRS clarified proposed regulations to ensure volunteer firefighters and emergency medical service personnel would not be counted as full-time employees under the Affordable Care Act.

The ACA requires that an employer with 50 or more full-time employees “offer affordable and adequate health care coverage to its employees,” Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy at the United States Department of the Treasury Mark J. Mazur said in a statement.

Employers that don’t fulfill the obligation may be required to make a payment, Mazur stated.

“An important question” arose about whether hours volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel worked would count toward the 50-employee threshold, Mazur said, and the Treasury Department invited public comment after initial regulations were proposed in December.

U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-2nd, sent a letter to the IRS asking for details on how the ACA affects volunteer fire companies, which make up more than 80 percent of the fire companies in New Jersey.

 He and U.S. Rep. Jon Runyan, R-3rd, later signed as sponsors to a bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., which would guarantee exemptions for fire companies from conforming to the employer mandate.

After review and analysis, Mazur said, the final regulations to be issued in the next few weeks “generally will not require volunteer hours of bona fide volunteer firefighters and volunteer emergency medical personnel at governmental or tax-exempt organizations to be counted when determining full-time employees.”

The decision “strikes the appropriate balance in the treatment provided to traditional full-time emergency responder employees, bona fide volunteers, and to our Nation’s first responder units, many of which rely heavily on volunteers.”

In a statement, LoBiondo said that he was “pleased the Obama Administration acknowledged and backtracked from the disaster-in-the-making for South Jersey communities if they had moved forward with categorizing volunteer firefighters as employees under Obamacare.

“(I) appreciate the coordinated efforts of Reps Barletta and Runyan among others in our efforts to persuade the IRS to maintain the long-established definition of ‘volunteer.’”

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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