A provision of Obamacare that requires employees that work 30 or more hours a week to be “full-time” and eligible for medical coverage caused somewhat of a stir at last night’s meeting of the Lincoln Parish School Board (LPSB). It seems that in addition to the 828 or so full-time employees (teachers, staff, and support), the district has between 200 and 300 part-time employees – substitute teachers, para-professionals, cafeteria, maintenance, and other contract employees that are paid by the hour.
Effective January 1, 2015, any of those employees that work more than 30 hours/week will have to be offered medical coverage. That would cost the district about $2 million/year if all the part-time employees are enrolled, said David Charpentier, of Brown & Brown Insurance, a consultant who has advised the board in the past.
Said Charpentier, “You can offer coverage to these individuals on the same basis that you offer it to everybody else, and you would have to find another approximately $2 million per year in your budget to do that.” He added, “Or you could ignore the issue, and the government would, after you sent your reporting package in where you self report in January 2016, the government would send you a bill for a fine of about $2.7 million, for not having offered coverage to a sufficient number of your full-time employees, as defined by them.”
When the discussion centered around reducing the hours of the employees to less than 30 hours/week, and possibly increasing their hourly pay to compensate, District Eleven’s George Mack, Jr. sharply questioned that plan.
Said Mack, “Here in Lincoln, it’s a question of equity and fairness. The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is the law of the land, is it not? So our objective is not to circumvent the law. That’s not what you’re trying to do, is it?” Mack went on, “How do we mitigate, how do we balance, taking care of people that we’re responsible for?”
Business Manager George Murphy noted that last year the board staff had begun to make plans to implement the reduced hours, but the Obamacare decree was delayed for a year.
Murphy said the plan was not an attempt to circumvent the law, but was in fact compliance.
Said Murphy, “Every time that we’ve talked about this, the words that we’ve used is were doing this is to comply with the law.” He added, “To me, circumventing the law is we know about the law, but we’re not going to do anything about it.”
Murphy noted that several years ago when sales tax receipts declined, several dozen full-time employee positions were eliminated and replaced with part-timers in order to stay solvent.
Charpentier noted that many companies in the private sector are going out of business, because the can’t afford to pay for the coverage.
As the discussion ebbed and flowed, it appeared that most all the board members were resigned to the reduced hours plan.
We’ll have more reporting later on the rest of the meeting.