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New Changes for Volunteer EMS Crews Under ACA

"It's good that they clarified it completely because then there's no up in air and no teetering back and forth."
SMITHSBURG, Md. - Volunteer emergency responders are breathing a sigh of relief after the U.S. Treasury Department made a final decision about their status under the Affordable Care Act.

Now volunteer EMS personal will not be considered full time employees. Something being called "a common sense improvement".

"It's good that they clarified it completely because then there's no up in air and no teetering back and forth, should we put money aside for this or just hold tight or it just gives our company somewhere to stand and say this is where they are we don't need to worry about it anymore," said Stephanie Smith, Smithsburg EMS volunteer.

For the Smithsburg EMS station, this change is a good thing because most of their volunteers are already covered and providing coverage could have forced them to make cuts.

"We have EMTs that get their EMT at 16, you know, volunteers, so they're already under their insurance through their parents or they have insurance through their full time job especially for our older volunteers that are adults. So a lot of these people already have health insurance and they really don't need to have the additional responsibility coming from the volunteer company," said James Ulrich, Smithsburg EMS Volunteer Chief.

Under the health care law, an employer with 50 or more full time employees is required to offer health care coverage or pay a fine --  something that could have been a challenge for volunteer crews.

"We certainly don't want to cut volunteers that could impact the community. Could cause us to respond on less calls or be less able to provide coverage and that's certainly money we haven't budgeted for and we don't a revenue stream for. We would have to do more fundraisers or come up with up some way of raising that money," said Ulrich.

And if the mandate hadn't been changed, Chief Ulrich says they still would have found a way to cover their volunteers.

The changes also exempt small business with less than 50 employees from the employer responsibility provisions.
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