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NH struggles with Obamacare's impact


May 15, 2013 | 08:53 AM

With government mandates pertaining to health insurance slated to take effect Jan. 1, John Thomas, superintendent of the North Harrison Community School Corp., is trying to find a way to meet the requirements while keeping the school system in the black.

During Thursday's night's meeting of the school trustees, Thomas gave a PowerPoint presentation about the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act, better known as Obamacare, and was prepared to make a recommendation to the board.

However, after listening to several members of the community, including many who would be adversely impacted by the recommendation, the board agreed to table any decision until the end of the month.

During his presentation, Thomas said the school corporation is required to offer health insurance coverage to all full-time employees (anyone working at least 30 hours is considered full time). However, NHCSC cannot afford to provide coverage to all of its non-certified employees nor could it pay the penalty, which Thomas estimated would be about $400,000 per year, that would be imposed if it didn't.

"Insurance rates are expected to go up," Thomas said. "Title I funds are being reduced due to the sequester ... Title II Part A funds are being reduced by 5 percent ... Tuition support is not going up."

He said it's not just North Harrison that is struggling with these decisions, but "it's all over."

Under the PPAHCA, employers with 50 or more full-time workers will determine those full-time employees during a "look back" period of six months, to occur in 2013. Thomas proposed North Harrison's look-back period be from June 1 through Nov. 30.

In order to reduce the number of full-time employees, he proposed reducing the hours of non-certified employees, including teaching assistants, to 29 hours a week and those who are hired to work nine months of the year in the near future would be hired as part-time employees.

"Do I like to have to do this? No," Thomas said. "Our teaching assistants do a fantastic job.

"My job is to keep the school corporation solvent, keep everybody employed," he said. "At least, you have a job."

A single benefit plan for an employee costs the school corporation $3,831. To offer health coverage to the 60 employees Thomas proposed to reduce to part-time status would cost $229,860. (An additional 40 or so non-certifieds, the ones hired prior to 2004, would continue to work at full-time status.)

"Multiply that over the years, it would be a tremendous amount of money," Thomas said. "We could end of in deficit spending."

Former teacher Greg Rupp said Thomas' plan would drive away the good assistants.

"These assistants are a valuable asset to our school," he said, adding that they're "dedicated neighbors and community members."

Jimmi Fessel, secretary at Morgan Elementary School, spoke on behalf of a collective group of non-certified employees, reminding the school board that they have a contract that includes a severance package, sick days and offers them health insurance until they are eligible for Medicare. She said Thomas' recommendation would have a negative impact on the school corporation.

Jerry Renneker, who served the past four years on the school board and whose wife is a NHCSC non-certified employee, questioned where teaching assistants are going to come from if they aren't allowed to work more than 29 hours a week.

He said the recommendation seemed to be based on a budget shortfall even though it has been known for two years that Obamacare was coming.

Teacher Dan Haskell, who also has a wife employed by the school system as a non-certified, urged the five-member board to table the recommendation. Several non-certified employees had submitted their resignations.

"To ask them, to force, really, to make a decision about retirement on two-weeks notice is ... not right morally," he said, encouraging the board to "sit on" any submitted resignations so the employees could reconsider what they were doing.

Michael Beyerle, who also completed a four-year term on the board, called the recommendation a "true morale buster."

"You've got plenty of ways to keep working on this," he said.

Another former school trustee, Bobby Chinn, who served two terms on the board, said, "I just think you guys need to step back and take a breather ... investigate what you're doing."

Before changing his recommendation from action to tabling a decision, Thomas said he was reluctant to do anything during the summer for fear it would appear as the board were acting behind the public's back.

He also recommended that two board members and two school employees serve on a committee to look at other options.

"I'm not saying everybody's going to get everything they want," Thomas said. "Nobody does. I don't get everything I want."

He reminded the board that a decision will need to be made by June 1, "one way or another," or everyone who currently receives health insurance will have to be offered it again for another year.

Board president Veronica Battista encouraged everyone to contact their legislators.

"They're the ones who can make this happen, grant school corporations a waiver" from the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act, she said.

  1. print email
    Wow, I don't understand.
    May 16, 2013 | 01:20 PM

    Teachers, educators, and ISTA members traditionally vote Democrat. Obama is a democrat, so is Harry Reid and Nacy Pelosi. How can this policy be causing problems for the very folks that voted them in.

    I thought we were told nothing would change. Insurance wouldn't go up, people wouldn't get laid off, hours wouldn't be reduced, we could keep what we had if we liked it. The fines would not be much either, if you call $400,000 not much.

    Maybe Repubicans had a point.

    DS
  2. print email
    Told you so
    May 17, 2013 | 08:31 AM

    I don't feel sorry for people who can't think before they vote. You voted for it, you believed the lies, now live with it, because as usual, I'm sure you won't contact your representatives in Congress to repeal this incredibly stupid, liberal law!

    LD
  3. print email
    Surprised
    May 17, 2013 | 08:39 AM

    I'm actually surprised The Corydon Democrat even reported this.

    LD
  4. print email
    May 17, 2013 | 09:04 AM

    Hi, I'm Liz Fowler...search my name if you want to know what I can do for your country...oh, by the way I wrote Obamacare and work for the leading healthcare company....who is owned by JPMorgan Chase...who owns the Federal Reserve...who runs the IRS via the treasury...who prints the money that we give right back to ... nothing to see here ...just make sure to have all your medical records turned into the IRS by 2014 so we will know who and how you live your life...

  5. print email
    Just wait
    May 17, 2013 | 12:08 PM

    $400,000 is just the tip of this socialist iceberg. We better wake up and send a message in the 2014 and 2016 elections. If we don't our kids will be citizens of the USSA, not USA.

    CF
  6. print email
    May 20, 2013 | 02:45 AM

    Many people will get their hours reduced and be part time employees due to Obama care. Maybe Mr. Barley and Ms. Battista should thought about the costs before they bought the athletes $200,000 bus. Tax pagers cannot afford any more taxes. The schools need to learn to tighten their financial belts just like every other household in America. The nine most dangerous words are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help.

    Let
  7. print email
    There's People Surprised by this?
    May 20, 2013 | 03:14 AM

    This would be humorous if it weren't so sad. So now that reality hits, you want an exemption? You had your opportunity last November. Enjoy your Socialist utopia and don't forget to not watch Fox News and the Tea Party are just a bunch of racist terrorists.

    SW
  8. print email
    Math isn't good
    May 22, 2013 | 09:27 AM

    The highest penalty an employer can be required to pay under the ACA is $3,000 per employee for whom coverage should have been provided but was not. If this is actually about 60 employees, the top penalty is only $180,000, not $400,000. And again, those are maximum penalties, actual penalties could be much less. Also, the School is not required to provide the assistants with the same coverage that other employees get (at $3,831/year), it only has to meet minimum standards defined by the law. It sounds like the School Corporation needs better counsel.

    ACA Attorney
  9. print email
    Offer versus Provide
    May 23, 2013 | 11:41 AM

    "...the school corporation is required to offer health insurance coverage to all full-time employees..." I admit I have not done extensive research on what the new law requires. However, I'm under the impression that insurance must be OFFERED to full time employees. Nothing states that the employer (the school corp) must pay for the insurance or even make a contribution to help pay for the premium. They can offer the insurance to employees and make the employees pay 100% of the premium (through paycheck deductions). Besides administrative costs of someone collecting all the extra paperwork, how will this increase the corp's expenses? Someone please inform me if I am wrong regarding who must pay for this insurance.

    SS
  10. print email
    The real issues
    May 23, 2013 | 05:20 PM

    So shocked by the poor reporting in this article that it didn't even make clear there were two issues being dealt with at this meeting. The assistants retiring had nothing to do with hours being cut. This pertained to Mr. Thomas' recommendation to take away the benefit of continued school insurance coverage after retirement until medicare age for non-certified employees with 15 years vested service and who are 55 years of age or older. In order to receive this benefit, which was in place when they hired in, their resignations had to be accepted by the board at this meeting before the board voted to take their insurance away literally minutes later. The school board agenda was emailed to all employees the Monday before Thursday's board meeting giving employees 3 days to make a decision (because they were not previously informed of this matter) that would affect their entire future, choosing between employment or insurance. This matter was the reason for so many pleas from the public to table any decision by the board and also forming the committee of board members and employees.
    Yes we should contact our congressmen for a school waiver not because the Affordable Health Care Act is a bad thing but to consider that people who work on average 30 hours a week for 6 months of the year as full time employees is ridiculous.
    Yes, this board meeting should have been covered by the Democrat, next time the reporter should get information on what is actually going on. An agenda for topics discussed and to be voted on was handed out.

    MM
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Corydon Democrat, 301 N. Capitol Ave., Corydon, IN 47112 1-812-738-2211 email