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January 6, 2014

Law leaves system in limbo

(Continued)

FREEPORT, Maine —

Others point to factors that they say show the concern is overblown. Many small towns only have about 20 to 30 volunteer firefighters, likely making them too small to be affected by the law’s mandate. And though Fournier described a busy winter with a lot of work for firefighters, they often fall short of working enough hours to be affected by the insurance requirement. Most volunteers also receive insurance coverage through their primary work as teachers, business professionals or city employees.

It’s too early to ring the alarm, concluded Trish Riley, an adjunct professor of health policy at the University of Southern Maine’s Muskie School of Public Service.

“With any major piece of legislation like this, there are bound to be unintended consequences,” she said. “But you can’t leap to conclusions before the federal government has the opportunity to address it.”

Finger said he’s confident the issue will ultimately be addressed either through the regulations or legislation and is urging fire departments to avoid taking any immediate steps. But he realizes that the political tension over the health care law means that even a small change can turn into a big fight.

“The tough part is, anything having to do with this law is just so partisan that it’s difficult to take action on,” he said.

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