President Obama will issue executive order enabling firefighters to qualify for federal program
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Seasonal firefighters will catch a health care break, as President Obama this week said he’ll issue an executive order that would enable firefighters to buy federal health insurance.
The issue was in the spotlight last month when Obama visited Colorado Springs and the scene of the deadly and destructive Waldo Canyon Fire.
Activists also used the power of social media and the internet to quickly gather tens of thousands of signatures via Change.org, where a Denver-based firefighter told his story. Firefighting hotshot crews also have their own Facebook page advocating for access to health insurance benefits.
The Daily Kos, with its tagline of News, Community and Action, helped organize the petition drive.
Outside the advocacy arena, the Denver Post’s Allison Sherry has done some excellent reporting on the issue.
Wildland firefighters have long sought access to federal health insurance benefits, but have been denied because they are categorized as temporary workers.
Even though they’re temporary employees, they sometimes — in busy fire seasons — work a year’s worth of hours in six months. Firefighting obviously is dangerous and may increase the risk for some chronic illnesses.
Congresswoman Diana DeGette earlier introduced a bill that would have given firefighters access to insurance, but given the politically charged atmosphere surrounding health care these days, it’s not clear how fast the House would have moved on that measure.
Obama’s executive order plows through any ideological opposition, though it’s hard to imagine how anyone could justify arguing against giving firefighters the option of buying insurance.
Obama’s move drew approval from Colorado Congressman Jared Polis, a Boulder Democrat.
“Brave firefighters protecting Colorado homes and businesses deserve the security of health insurance, which is why I’m so pleased that President Obama issued this executive order,” Polis said. “I’m happy the president acted so quickly following his visit to Colorado.”