Monday, November 18, 2013

Hearing examines Obamacare's impact on schools and their employees who work less than full time

Long before the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act went into effect, local and state government agencies began cutting part-time employees to avoid having to give them health coverage. Concern, and debate, has now turned to health reform's impact on part-time school and college employees. Republicans at a Capitol Hill hearing last week "predicted that school systems would be forced to cut programs to account for the law's pricetag, and possibly scale back employees' hours," Sean Cavanagh reports for Education Week.

The act "mandates that public and private employers with at least 50 workers provide health insurance to full-time workers—defined as employees working an average of 30 or more hours a week—or face fines. That requirement would apply to many school districts," Cavanagh writes. "Some school systems that rely heavily on hourly workers to fill positions such as instructional aides, support staff, and other roles say the provision will force them to reduce those employees' work weeks to get below the 30-hour threshold. Others say it could lead districts to offer their employees watered-down health plans."

That has some districts worried. Mark D. Benigni, the superintendent of the Meriden school system in Connecticut, told the hearing "the law could cost his 9,100-student district $4.6 million over time—the approximate cost of 58 teaching positions," Cavanagh writes. "The costs, he said, stem from the law's requirement that districts expand the benefits and eligibility of coverage to current employees, a step that includes covering children up until the age of 26; and from the law's call to insure employees working at least 30 hours a week, among other pieces of the law." (Read more)

The problem is that it's complicated for schools to document "actual time worked for people in positions like substitute teachers, paraprofessional coaches and part-time employees," Susan Barkley, assistant director of the Kentucky Department of Education's Division of District Support, told Madelynn Coldiron for the November issue of the Kentucky School Board Advocate. Even worse, "If a school district worker who is eligible for coverage instead purchases a health plan from the state’s marketplace, the district faces a big fine," said Shannon Stiglitz, a lobbyist for the Kentucky School Boards Association. (Read more)

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