Topsham approves health care incentive for per-diem firefighters

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TOPSHAM — Some of Topsham’s firefighters now have the option of getting health insurance through the town.

Several of the town’s 50 per-diem firefighters are working more than 30 hours per week. This prompted town officials to look at health care policies to avoid potential financial penalties, which could have added up to $20,000 to $30,000 per year. Selectmen voted last Thursday to allow those working more than 20 hours to purchase health insurance through the town once they’ve worked for six months with the department.

“Under the Affordable Care Act, people who average 30 hours per week or more are considered full-time employees for the purpose of health care,” said Town Manager Rich Roedner. “If they choose to take it that’s fine, if they opt not to take it, fine, as well, but we’re able to offer it to them.”

Offering per-diem firefighters the option to purchase health care won’t come at a cost to the town. Officials say it may have the added benefit of providing an incentive for per-diem firefighters to pick up more hours in Topsham. Roedner said the town is worried about losing firefighters to surrounding departments with better pay and benefits. The market can be competitive, and while the town raised pay to $20 per hour, some towns are offering $25.

The current number of 50 has been a target goal for per-diem workers, according to Roedner. Those averaging more than 20 hours per week for a six-month period would be eligible under the proposed changes.

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