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ObamaCare attacks volunteer fire departments

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Contact Colin McNickle (412-320-7836 or

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Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Among ObamaCare's manifest unintended consequences are its potentially ruinous effects on volunteer fire departments — which do not deserve to be hosed by this noxious law's “employer mandate.”

That mandate requires employers with more than 50 employees to provide health-care coverage or pay fines. And because the Internal Revenue Service historically has considered volunteer firefighters “employees” for tax purposes — and is in charge of determining which employers that mandate covers — these unpaid protectors of people and property face the potential demise of their selfless service at the hands of ObamaCare.

Edward Mann, Pennsylvania's fire commissioner, estimates that most of the state's 2,100 VFDs could be forced to buy insurance for their members. And with too many volunteer companies already struggling to make ends meet — through grants and fundraising that takes precious time away from training — this mandate could be their kiss of death, forcing residents statewide to pay more in fire-insurance premiums and in taxes to support paid firefighters if volunteer operations have to disband.

The IRS could update its ruling on volunteer firefighters' status. The Department of Health and Human Services could exclude them from the mandate in its final ObamaCare regulations. But neither can be trusted to do the right thing.

Thus, legislation to spare volunteer fire departments this financial death blow — backed by U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Hazleton, and U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa. — must become law.

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