Smart Talk: Legislation aims to help fire companies recoup cost

Billing insurance companies one option for funding shortfalls

  • Merideth Bucher/WITF

Firefighting is expensive.

There are recruiting costs, regular training, and expensive equipment to purchase and maintain.

Forecasting those costs is especially difficult because firefighters don’t only respond to fire alarms or battle blazes. Many departments also respond to calls for emergency medical services.

In Pennsylvania, more than 96 percent of registered fire departments are manned by volunteers. Managing a volunteer fire department is an exercise in doing a lot with very little funding.  As costs rise, their fundraising efforts must, as well.

There is new legislation in the works that would allow volunteer fire companies to bill for the cost of their emergency response.

The bill would allow local departments to seek compensation from the insurance companies that provide policy coverage for the buildings or vehicles involved in the emergency call.

Not everyone agrees that billing insurance providers is the right answer, or that this proposal would solve recurring funding problems. Opponents say that most insurance policies don’t cover the cost of fire response and the bill’s language must be clarified.

Appearing on Smart Talk to discuss the legislation and potential pitfalls are Republican State Representative Cris Dush of Jefferson County and Sam Marshall, President and CEO of the Insurance Federation of Pennsylvania.

Key Points:

:25 – What would the legislation do?

12:36 – Bill for service can go directly to insurance company

23:19 – Bill should go to the individual, not  the insurance company

29:28 – Are there holes in the legislation?

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