ANDERSON — As Congress debates what's considered full-time work under the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act, Madison County school officials have already moved to trim the hours of part-time employees.
Full-time school employees are generally eligible for health insurance.
But support staff such as bus drivers, cafeteria workers, instructional aides and custodians — most of whom work less than 40 hours per week — did not receive benefits.
The 2010 law mandates that public and private employees with at least 50 workers provide health insurance to their full-time employees. Under the law, however, a full-time worker is defined as anyone working an average of 30 hours a week. That's a significant change, and one that could be costly because of steep penalties associated with the new health care law.
Dennis L. Costerison, executive director of the Indiana Association of School Business Officials, said many school districts have made the tough decision to cut the hours of part-time employees rather than face the prospect of sharply higher health insurance costs or fines.
Fort Wayne schools employ more than 600 part-time workers and estimated the cost of providing health insurance benefits to them could be upwards of $10 million.
"Unfortunately, schools have had to be innovative to deal with this because they don’t have the extra dollars to meet those needs," Costerison said, adding that the association supports efforts by Rep. Susan Brooks, R-5th District, and Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., change the definition.
"I know that there has been a huge impact on part-time employers we hire," said Chris Boots, president of South Madison Community Schools Board of Trustees. "We've had to cut their hours."
Ken McCarty, business manager for South Madison, said about 130 employees were affected by the so-called employer mandate.
He conducted a study, which found that providing health insurance to those employees would cost about $1.2 million and no way to pay for it. "The new law did not come with any additional funding," McCarty said.