Give Volunteer Fire Departments a Break

For many years, most residents of the Northern Panhandle and East Ohio have been able to count on volunteer fire departments to come to our aid in emergencies. Hundreds of men and women provide the service while asking for nothing in return.

For generations what they did was a wonderful bargain. In exchange for a few dollars now and then to replace equipment, buy supplies and cover expenses for fire halls, they responded quickly and effectively to fire and other emergency calls. But things have changed.

Government regulations have made it increasingly difficult for volunteer fire units to make ends meet. The new national health care law – Obamacrare – threatens to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back of some departments.

Under the law, some larger volunteer fire departments are treated as employers who have to comply with the statute’s requirements that “employees” be provided with health insurance. That added financial burden could force some volunteer units to shut down – or take the distasteful, to them, step of charging more for services.

This week the U.S. House of Representatives voted 410-0 to exempt volunteer fire departments from the Obamacare “employer mandate.” U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., was among co-sponsors of the measure.

As the vote on the House version demonstrates, exempting volunteer fire departments from Obamacare is not a controversial idea. Members of the U.S. Senate, then, should approve their version of the bill.