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      Firefighters keep a close eye on Affordable Care Act

      Firefighters put their lives in danger to keep the public safe, but whether they'll have health insurance in the coming years is still up in the air.

      The issue is tied to the Affordable Care Act. First responders who work part-time, or at least 30 hours, are concerned they may have to make a choice between keeping their hours as is, or not being provided with health care.

      It really comes down to what an organization can afford, and we're here to protect the safety of our citizens, and the best way for us to do that is a compliment of full time and part time employees, said Grand Traverse Metro Fire Department Chief Pat Parker.

      Chief Parker is not sure where he will find the estimated $70,000 to pay for government mandated health insurance for seven part-time employees. That number of eligible employees could change between now and this time next year. That TMs when he expects coverage to be required by the Affordable Care Act.

      We're going to have to find that money somewhere or plan on doing more with less on a fire scene and I don't think any of us have that luxury to say half the people coming stay home, we don't need you. So often on a fire scene, a hazmat scene, emergency scene, whatever it is, we need all the people that we can get.

      The Grand Traverse Metro Fire Department has more than 50 full-time employees, and according to the Affordable Care Act they're required to offer health insurance. Right now full time firefighters get coverage, but not part time employees.

      That's the last thing I want to do is go to an employee and say you've met your hours for the week. You can't come on any emergency, and that would hurt not only them but also would hurt us that we need people to respond on calls.

      Although no final decisions have been made, part-time employees realize some changes may be coming their way.

      It's one end or the other. It's either you have the hours or the hours get cut, or you could purchase health care. A lot of them would rather just buy the health care and keep the same hours, said Grand Traverse Metro Fire Department Lt. Kyle Clute.

      Local township fire departments say they're waiting to hear back from government officials on just how the Affordable Care Act will affect them.