Continuing its efforts to chip away at the Affordable Care Act, the House of Representatives on Monday voted 401-0 to exempt emergency service volunteers from the 50-employee threshold triggering the healthcare law's pay-or-play mandate. Last week, the House unanimously approved a similar measure exempting veterans covered under TRICARE or comparable insurance from being counted as an employee for ACA's shared responsibility purposes. As of January 1 of this year, employers with at least 100 full-time or full-time equivalent employees must provide health insurance that meets certain ACA standards to their full-time employees, or pay a penalty. This floor will be lowered to 50 or more employees on January 1, 2016.
The Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act (H.R. 33), sponsored by Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA), defines "bona fide volunteer" as one whose only compensation from the employer is in the form of:
- reimbursement for (or reasonable allowance for) reasonable expenses incurred in the performance of services by volunteers, or
- reasonable benefits (including length of service awards), and nominal fees, customarily paid by similar entities in connection with the performance of services by volunteers.
This bill, like the Hire More Heroes Act passed last week, is relatively uncontroversial. In contrast, the Save American Workers Act of 2015 (H.R. 30) – a bill that would increase from 30 to 40 the number of hours an employee must work to be considered "full-time" under the ACA – is facing opposition. While the House passed this measure, it will require additional support from Senate Democrats to advance, and even then faces a potential Presidential veto.