Because I have several close friends affected, I've been riveted by the news coverage of the Colorado files. But I was horrified to find out that most of the brave men & women fighting these fires are without health insurance. Is this truly how we thank our first responders in this country?
Of all the jobs where you might want health insurance, firefighting near certainly ranks near the top of the list. Firefighters spend two-week shifts working 18 hour days in dangerous conditions. Some develop breathing problems due to smoke inhalation.
But many federal firefighters are temporary employees, who only work six months out of the year (although as Lauer describes it, they can often work a full year’s worth of hours with the long shifts). Under federal regulations, temporary employees of the Forest Service do not receive benefits. That means no health care and no retirement pension.
“A lot of them are not making a lot,” says Bill Dougan, president of the National Federal of Federal Employees. “The only way they can afford insurance is if they have a spouse that might be able to get coverage under an employer. In some places that’s not an option.”
Um... under the Affordable Care Act, all these brave men & women would be able to purchase affordable health insurance.
So let's look at the people who do have great, affordable health insurance:
- Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, who thinks it's a moral imperative to reduce funding for food stamps.
- Every Alabama representative & senator who voted against the ACA.
- Every single member of the Supreme Court of the United States.
- Every government contractor at the Army, NASA, Boeing, & all the other corporations that keep Madison County tech folks employed. Their health benefits are paid for via "overhead" factored into US government contracts. Yeah, you Ayn Rand-loving Libertarians... you're getting health insurance welfare from your fellow taxpayers - so stop your whining.
Now, if your home were threatened by an out-of-control wildfire, who would you rather have responding? One of the above or a trained, professional firefighter who risks his/her life for peanuts and whose friends might quite literally have to sell peanuts to pay for that person's medical care in a few years?
I know which side I'm on. And if SCOTUS strikes down the ACA today, our next job as citizens should be to demand the dissolution of all Federal health care benefit programs for the bigwigs in DC.
Let them try to buy insurance on the open market.