Diana DeGette's push for temporary-firefighter insurance gains a big ally: The President
Wildfire season -- which has included several massive Colorado blazes already this year -- puts thousands of seasonal firefighters to work. But because many have temporary status, they aren't eligible for federal health insurance -- a concern Representative Diana DeGette hoped to address in a new bill.
But just hours after she officially introduced the legislation, news broke that her effort has critical support from President Barack Obama, who is directing federal officials to give wildland firefighters access to health insurance.
"They are on the frontline fighting next to...state and local employees and also contract employees, all of whom have insurance," DeGette says. "It just seems inequitable that we'd have people fighting fires and protecting our community who don't have...insurance."
Apparently, the President -- who got a big political boost last month when the Supreme Court largely upheld his signature health-care plan -- seems to agree.
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service/Kari Greer
As reported by the Denver Post , Obama is issuing a directive that will allow the tens of thousands of firefighters who are not full-time U.S. Forest Service employees to purchase federal health insurance coverage in the "near future."
There are around 15,000 wildland firefighters on the federal payroll this season, and 8,000 or so are considered "temporary" -- and thus unable to get health insurance, the AP reports.
"When you add up the overtime, they are working a lot more than just part-time," DeGette says.
Page down to read more of our interview with Representative Diana DeGette.