The fee is $95 per adult– or 1% or your annual income– whichever is higher. It will be taken out of your 2014 tax return.
This story has 9 updates
Volunteer fire companies across the country are breathing a sigh of relief, after learning over the weekend that they will be exempt from an Affordable Care Act mandate requiring them to provide health insurance to their members.
Though staffed with volunteers, many community fire companies have a lot of costs to cover.
“You’re looking at fuel costs, in the winter heating the building, building maintenance,” said Chad Livelsberger, chief of Wrightsville Fire and Rescue.
Under the act, companies with at least 50 employees must provide health insurance to those who work 30 hours or more per week. For tax purposes, the Internal Revenue Service considers volunteer firefighters employees.
“A lot of them struggle to pay just to operate and training and equipment and there’s no way they, we could afford to pay healthcare to our members,” said Chief Mark Simpson, of the Camp Hill Volunteer Fire Company.
Just last week, U.S. Representative Lou Barletta, R-11th District, introduced the “Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act” to exempt volunteer fire companies from the employer mandate.
“This wrinkle in the Affordable Care Act will not provide healthcare to the uninsured, it will only shutdown fire companies and cause a severe threat to public safety,” he said, as he introduced his bill on the House floor.
On Friday, the U.S. Treasury Department announced volunteer fire departments will be exempt from the requirement. It’s a move that Congressman Barletta and many volunteer fire chiefs say will keep companies from having to close or cut down on members.
In a statement, Mark J. Mazur, assistant secretary for tax policy at the U.S. Treasury, said that the department will release regulations for volunteer fire companies to follow regarding the policy shortly.
You can read the Treasury Department’s full statement here.
Have you signed up for coverage on Healthcare.gov in the past few months?
If you have, chances are you may not be covered — at least according to the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare.
The exact number of those affected in Pennsylvania could be in the thousands, and even more nationwide.
The Department of Public Welfare put out a notice on New Year’s Eve, warning people that even though they signed up for health care, they may not be covered.
The department says the federal government was supposed to transfer the 25,000 approved files between October 1st and December 24th, electronically to the state.
“The way that this account transfer was set up was so that there would be seamless transfer of the information, a one stop shop, you go to healthcare.gov, you sign up, and it comes to your state directly,” says Kait Gills, with the Department of Public Welfare.
But it didn’t go as planned.
“It’s a technical glitch in the website that they’re working on and we’re working with them to ensure that this doesn’t happen for much longer,” says Gills.
Exactly how long it will take to fix is unknown.
Kait Gills says the department added extra staff to answer the 1,000 calls they’ve already received in the past week.
And, the main concern?
People ask, “am I covered for a doctor’s visit if the website already told me I’m eligible”?
“If you receive a bill and you thought you were covered, it will be retroactively covered,” says Gills.
Gills says the best way to check if you’ve been approved is by calling the Department of Public Welfare at 866-550-4355.
On New Year’s Eve, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a last-minute healthcare exemption, just hours before the controversial Affordable Care Act mandates went into effect.
The order gives a temporary exemption to two Catholic nonprofits. The charities filed a lawsuit objecting to the contraception mandate because of their religious and moral beliefs. The Justice said the two groups will be exempted until Friday, when the federal government must respond to the lawsuit.
The biggest from the law taking effect in 2014 requires adults without insurance to pay a penalty. The annual fee this year is either $95 or 1% of the family income. But the penalty fee will increase each year after this one (read more on the healthcare.gov web site). You must enroll in a health insurance plan by March 31st to avoid the penalty, although you can also file for an exemption.
Local healthcare navigators are staying busy, helping to sign people up for insurance plans by the December 23rd deadline, so that they’ll be covered by January 1.
Southeast Lancaster Health Services has an enrollment office in Lancaster.
Outreach and enrollment coordinator Daniel Sosa said his office has had a lot of appointments in the past two weeks with people wanting to enroll in healthcare plans.
“Today’s an important deadline, but it’s not the ultimate deadline,” he said. “Some people think that this is the day, but it’s not really the day. We keep going into the new year and into the next few months, so there’s still plenty of time for people to find a plan that is good for them.”
Southeast Lancaster Health Services’ enrollment assistance is free of charge, you just have to make an appointment. You can call 717-917-3756 or 717-847-3442 to learn more.
The Obama Administration, has reportedly extended the deadline to sign-up for Affordable Care Act coverage by 24 hours. Coverage begins January 1, 2014. The orginal deadline was midnight tonight, the new deadline is midnight on Christmas Eve.
To read more click here.
Pennsylvania Congressman, Joe Pitts, visited the Lafayette Fire Company in Lancaster Tuesday afternoon to show firefighters how he’s going to fight against mandates under the Affordable Care Act.
Rep. Pitts says a requirement under the Affordable Care Act could potentially shut down the Lafayette Fire Company in Lancaster.
But firefighters say they’re doing everything in their power to avoid that.
The new healthcare law requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide health insurance.
And, the IRS considers firefighters, even though they’re volunteers, to be employees for tax purposes.
“Pennsylvania alone has over 3,000 volunteer fire and EMS companies, this could be devastating to local companies across the state,” says Rep. Pitts.
Fire Chief, David Keens says this is somewhat of a nightmare.
“It is and when I first read about it three weeks ago I thought it’s not really going to–they can’t do this–come on!” says Chief Keens.
But it’s become a reality unless a House of Representatives resolution passes that would exempt firefighters and EMS crews.
Chief Keens says since 2007 he’s seen a decrease in funding by 50% from the community.
“That’s a pretty big hit, now we’re still surviving here but if we had to pay benefits under the Affordable Care Act, I’m afraid we would not be able to survive,” says Keens.
And, the more Chief Keens read about the new requirements, the more he realized the fire company may have to cut volunteers.
He and others who run the company say that’s the last resort.
“The people we have are valuable to us. (You don’t want to let them go..) No I definitely don’t want to let them go.. no way,” says Deputy Chief, Scott Hershey.
Chief Keens says if the company has to pay for insurance he’ll consult the township to see if it can help in anyway.
The Affordable Care act could have a major impact on volunteer fire companies. After asking questions and not getting answers for weeks, Congressman Lou Barletta has proposed a bill to protect the fire companies.
“Common sense is not so common here in Washington and I didn’t want to take the chance because I do believe this would close many fire houses around the country, “ says Barletta
Barletta says under the Affordable Care Act volunteer fire companies could be forced to pay for healthcare for the volunteers. He says currently the IRS treats all firefighters as employees, volunteer or not. And since they are treated as employees, employers with at least 50 employees must provide health insurance to those who work 30 hours per week. He’s been leading the move to get clarification on this from the IRS, and since he has yet to hear from them, he’s taking matters into his own hands. He has proposed a bill to protect the companies.
“ There have been over a thousand waivers for special interest groups already. I don`t know what needs to be reviewed here, “ says Barletta
The Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act would exempt them from the Employer Mandate under the Affordable Care Act.
Fox43 did contact the IRS. The IRS told us to contact the U.S Treasury who told us they couldn’t comment at this time.
Time is running out to enroll in healthcare coverage through the Affordable Care Act or through Medicare.
If you’re still unsure of what plan to choose, or maybe you’re shopping for coverage for the first time, we’ve got some tips to help you out.
The Vice President of Health Education and Outreach for AARP Nicole Duritz, joined the FOX43 morning team to discuss some of your options.
For more information visit: http://healthlawanswers.aarp.org/