The Herald Bulletin

June 26, 2013

Area schools reducing hours to comply with healthcare mandate

Full-time employees must be offered insurance under healthcare act

By Dani Palmer
The Herald Bulletin

ELWOOD, Ind. — To meet compliance expectations of the Patient Protections and Affordable Health Care Act, schools are having to reduce hours that will impact part-time employees and possibly student services, officials say.

With regulations set by the federal statute, schools now must offer affordable coverage to all full-time employees and cut the hours of part-time employees, like cafeteria workers, instructional aides and custodians, to 30 hours a week or less to avoid penalties.

“The primary group getting hurt is students,” Elwood Community Schools Interim Superintendent Tom Austin said. “The next group is employees.”

For example, students with individualized learning plans (IEPs) may have two different aides they work with rather than just one they may be familiar with.

Anderson Community Schools Human Resources Director Eric Creviston said teachers will be receiving less support from para-educators and instructional assistants.

“These employees are critical and important parts of our schools and how educational services are provided,” he said, “and we are still calculating and observing how these services will be impacted.”

Other than those with exemptions, such as bus drivers who drive students to several extracurricular activities or field trips a year, overtime will no longer be allowed, Austin said.

Elwood Community Schools Business Manager Joa Griffith said the district will be keeping track of employees’ hours weekly, but that the Affordable Healthcare Act is looking at a six-month average.

That means that an exempt bus driver (there are one certified and two classified employees for Elwood who are exempt) could work more than 30 hours, but would have to reduce his hours even more the following week.

And less hours means less compensation.

Except in ACS’ case. Each district had a little flexibility as to how they wanted to address the changes, and Creviston said the district was in a position to retain the current daily wage.

That means ACS part-time employees will receive fewer hours but the same pay.

So what happens if school districts don’t fall in line with these new regulations? There are thousands of dollars in penalties.

According to the Affordable Healthcare Act guide, the “sledgehammer” penalty is enacted “if a large employer fails to offer minimal essential coverage to at least 95 percent of its’ full time employees and their dependents.”

“The employer will be subject to an annual penalty of $2,000 for each of its full-time employees (minus 30) provided if even one full-time employee receives a subsidy to purchase insurance through an exchange,” the guide continues.

“There is no alternative,” Griffith said. “We have to follow the law.”

The new law goes into effect January 1, 2014, but changes have to be made now to comply, Creviston said.

Even as schools are working on these alterations, Griffith added, the language of the law is still changing.

Creviston said further adjustments may have to be made while schools also prepare to pay federal excise taxes next year for the first time.

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