(WKTV) - Volunteer firefighters here in central New York are joining with their counterparts around the country to make sure the federal government doesn't recognize them as 'employees' and not volunteers under the new national healthcare law; a move that would require some departments, depending on their size, to purchase health insurance for their volunteers.
Those in the volunteer fire service say that could bankrupt many departments.
"There's a lot of small departments even right here in Oneida County that raise money by fund drives, field days and so forth and to include health insurance into their budgets would just break their backs as far as the financial side of it," says National Volunteer Fire Service local delegate David Jacobowitz.
Jacobowitz stresses that there is a movement afoot that will likely address the problem. He is asking those in the fire service, their families and the communities they serve to contact their federal lawmakers and ask them to continue to recognize their volunteer firefighters as just that, and not employees. Those interested may go to wktv.com and click on the link to the National Volunteer Fire Council. Then, click on "read more" under the first alert on the page. From there, click on "action alert" (written in red) and a letter template will pop up. Simply fill in the blanks and hit 'send' and the letter will go to the appropriate lawmaker.
A bill currently exists that would address the issue. Congressman Richard Hanna supports the measure, which has 41 bi-partisan sponsors.
There is no timeframe, however, for a vote. The classification of volunteer firefighters wouldn't change until 2015.