Health insurance struggles faced by seasonal firefighters

Health insurance plan

Cost of Health Insurance

An online petition and a call to the government have been made in the hopes for federal coverage.

Thousands of seasonal firefighters protect the country every year but do not have health insurance, causing them to start a petition and ask the government for inclusion in a federal health plan.

These firefighters are the front line for protecting the country against the wildfires that explode their way across some of the most dangerous terrain, sending out flames and smoke that continually puts their safety and lives in danger. And yet they are not covered by medical plans, nor are their families.

Many are now hoping to take part in a federal government health insurance plan.

This movement was greatly inspired by the frustration felt by these seasonal workers when one of their colleagues faced a $70,000 hospital bill following the premature birth of his son. The request to the federal government has led to a petition that has already accumulated over 125,000 signatures during this season where wildfires have been breaking records throughout the West, and as the controversy regarding healthcare rages throughout the country.

The firefighters love their jobs. They want to be able to help people and keep them – and their homes and businesses – safe. Politicians sing their praises while residents send cards, letters, and gifts to express their gratitude. However, very few people realize that these same individuals who are always risking their lives to keep others safe, are not protected against illness and injury with health insurance.

Though these workers do have workers’ compensation coverage in case they should experience an injury while they are actually on the job. However, this does not provide them with coverage when they are not fighting a fire or throughout the offseason.

According to the Boise, Idaho based National Interagency Fire Center, there are currently about 15,000 wildland firefighters currently employed across the country by the federal government. Among them, more than half – 8,000 – are deemed seasonal and temporary workers. They work one season at a time with no guarantee that they will be employed when the next season begins, and they are not provided with federal benefits. Some claim that within a 6 month span of time, they put in the equivalent number of hours to a year of work.

When the Affordable Care Act goes into effect in 2014, these seasonal firefighters will have greater health insurance access, but they are currently seeking to obtain access to federal coverage plans just like any other employee of the government.

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