Information has come to light that volunteer fire departments could be required to provide health insurance under the terms of the Affordable Care Act - Obamacare.
According to an article in the Daily Mail, "the U.S. Department of Labor takes the term 'volunteer' literally, but the IRS says volunteer firefighters are technically employees if they're on the job more than 30 hours per week, making them subject to Obamacare's employee-mandate rules."
Under the law, companies with more than 50 employees are required to provide health care coverage.
"We don't have any departments in the county with more than 50 volunteers," said County Fire Marshal Buddy Harwell.
However, there could be a catch.
"In towns with more than one volunteer fire department, all the staffers will likely be lumped together for tax purposes, pushing many municipalities above the 50-worker threshold," the article noted.
There are no communities in Palo Pinto County where there is more than one department.
"But we are all under one Emergency Services District," Harwell added, meaning that the potential exists for the IRS to consider all departments under one "employer."
A request for clarification was sent to IRS representatives in Dallas. That request was bumped to the U.S. Treasury Department in Washington, D.C.
"On background, we received a number of comments concerning volunteer firefighters and other volunteers in response to proposed regulations issued last December," responded Elizabeth Bourassa, a treasury department spokeswoman.
"We are taking those comments into account as we work toward issuing final regulations on the employer responsibility provision, 4980H of the Internal Revenue Code. Pending issuance of the final regulations, it would not be appropriate for us to comment on their likely content."