As we watch the spate of wildfires out in Colorado and other states, one of the great injustices surrounding that concerns the firefighters dispatched to these areas to battle the blazes. It turns out that the 15,000-odd seasonal, part-time workers who fight fires as part of the US Forest Service have no opportunity to purchase federal health insurance.
Both Presidential candidates visited with firefighters in Colorado over the last week, and President Obama did something about the workers who had no health insurance. He took executive action to give them the opportunity to buy into the federal program.
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has directed federal officials to offer seasonal firefighters the option of purchasing federal health insurance coverage, White House officials told The Denver Post Tuesday [...]
Under a directive that will be made in the “near future” from the Office of Personnel Management, this group will get that option by the end of this month, White House officials said.
Not yet known is how the eligibility will work and how long these workers will be able to qualify for the federal insurance program. Many move on to other jobs by the time the first snow falls.
It’s not going to be entirely easy to capture this community and come up with eligibility rules when they are basically temp workers, but I think everyone can agree it’s the right thing to do. It took far too long to make it happen, however.
Casey Judd, president of the Federal Wildland Fire Service Association, said the news made him “happy and frustrated at the same time.”
“I’m encouraged there has been renewed interest in this issue … These are problems that could have been fixed 20 years ago,” Judd said. “Politicians come out of the woodwork during a good fire season.”
Colorado’s four Republican members of Congress have thus far made no statement on the record about this executive action.