While Colorado goes up in flames, and the Republican wing of the Supreme Court writes the dismantling of Obamacare, the men and women hired by the federal government to fight wildfire are risking life and limb. Many of them are doing it without health insurance.
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. [...] 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.”
This is the status quo Republicans have been fighting for for the past two years. If the Affordable Care Act survives the Supreme Court Republican five tomorrow, it could help. Many of the firefighters make little enough to qualify for the subsidies to purchase insurance, making the premiums in reach. They'd also be guaranteed access to affordable health insurance, something that can be a problem for people in high-risk jobs.
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