On March 2, Representative Lou Barletta (R-PA) reintroduced the Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act (H.R. 1191), which would clarify in statute that volunteer emergency responders will not be treated as employees under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA or Obamacare) even if they receive nominal recruitment and retention incentives. Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) introduced identical legislation (S. 420) on February 10.
A previous version of the bill, H.R. 33, passed the House of Representatives 401-0 on January 12. However, because the Senate used H.R. 33 as a legislative vehicle to extend Department of Homeland Security appropriations last month, new legislation had to be introduced.
Under Obamacare, emergency services agencies could be penalized for not offering health insurance coverage to their volunteers. In September 2013, the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Treasury requesting that it clarify in final implementing regulations that volunteers would not be counted as employees under the health care reform law. On February 10, 2014, the Department of Treasury published final implementing regulations clarifying that bona fide volunteers, including those who receive reasonable benefits or nominal compensation for their service to governmental or tax-exempt organizations, will not be counted as employees under the PPACA. H.R. 1191 and S. 420 would essentially codify the regulations for volunteer emergency services personnel.