The U.S. Department of the Treasury (Treasury) Jan. 10 announced that final regulations, to be issued shortly, on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) employer mandate will exempt the hours of volunteer fire fighters and other local government and non-profit emergency responders from triggering the coverage mandate.
The announcement was posted today on the Treasury Notes blog by the Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy, Mark J. Mazur. The blog post can be found here.
According to Mazur, the regulations will generally “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 (or full-time equivalents).”
Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) employers with 50 or more full time workers are required to offer affordable comprehensive health insurance to their employees or be subject to a penalty. Under the ACA full time generally means 30 or more hours per week, with the hours of part time workers combined into full time equivalent employees (FTEs). Treasury had not, to date, responded to the concerns raised by the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) and NACo about the status of volunteer emergency workers. Counties served by volunteer fire departments – often rural counties – were very concerned that being required to offer comprehensive health coverage to their volunteers would force the departments to close.
IAFC, NACo and other organizations raised the issue with Congress, supporting the Protecting Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act introduced December 10 last year in the Senate by Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and in the House by Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Penn.). The bills (S. 1798 and H.R. 3685) would have ensured that volunteer fire departments and other volunteer first responders would not be required to count as FTEs for purposes of health insurance coverage. Assuming the forthcoming regulations comport with the announcement, legislative action should not be necessary.