Under the law, many departments would be forced to pay for insurance, or be fined for not providing it, which means "departments would likely be forced to reduce the number of hours firefighters can volunteer or eliminate the benefit programs, officials said," Durkin writes. In areas like Freeport, Me., the cost to the city and taxpayers to provide insurance to the five full-time volunteer firefighters would be $75,000. The fine could be $150,000. During the harsh Maine winters, the department employs as many as 50 volunteers,and if works more than 30 hours in a week, the department would be required to provide full health coverage.
Freeport and other small towns could avoid the penalty by cutting back hours, and hiring more volunteers, but that's easier said than done in towns with small populations and limited trained volunteers, Durkin writes. In response, "Maine's U.S. senators are backing a recently introduced bill aimed at ensuring volunteer firefighters and other emergency responders are exempt from the health care law requirement." (Read more)