Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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School faces dilemma with health insurance
Under Affordable Health Care Act, district would need to insure part-time workers

by Jade Bolack

June 27, 2013

WALWORTH — In January, the Walworth School District must offer health insurance to part-time employees who work an average of 30 hours a week.

Under regulations set in the Affordable Health Care Act, commonly called Obamacare, employers will face a penalty if they don't offer affordable health insurance to these part-time employees.

Administrative Assistant Karie Bourke said the school board has four options, and it must choose soon for budget making purposes.

"Our first option is to cut these employees down to 29 hours or less per week," she said. "I don't know if that's feasible for us."

If the employees average 29 hours or less a week, the district does not have to offer health insurance.

"Option two is to offer the employees health insurance at an affordable rate," Bourke said. "Affordable is defined at not more than 9.5 percent of their gross pay."

Bourke said this 9.5 percent remains regardless of how much the insurance prices increase in the future.

"We could offer the same insurance as the rest of our employees," she said. "That's well within the affordability standards. Last, we could offer an insurance rate above the 9.5 percent."

In this last option, employees can refuse insurance from the district and go to one of the health insurance exchanges yet to be created under the law.

"If they went to the health insurance exchange and were able to get insurance for less than what we were offering, we would have to pay a $3,000 penalty for that person," Bourke said. "We don't know what the exchange charges. Chances are that it would be less than 50 percent of our premium, though the insurance would not be as good. The quality of the insurance doesn't matter, though, only the cost."

Bourke said it's probable the district can only offer single health insurance plans.

"That would save us some money, of course," she said. "If we're doing the bottom line, unfortunately it's a large dollar amount."

Bourke said nearly all the part-time employees are currently working more than 30 hours.

"I have more and more (employees) that are getting closer to 40 (hours per week)," she said. "We have to offer something to them. We just have to pick an option and go with it."

The district will begin putting together the budget for the 2013-14 school year over the summer, and Bourke said she needed the board to make a decision soon.

"We have to make a decision on one of these options," she said. "I have to have it done before the budget, sooner rather than later just because of the potential cost. We're looking at quite a difference in cost (in the options) here."

The board agreed to review the options and discuss it at future meetings.

Support staff raises

All school support staff will see a 2 percent raise next year.

The board deliberated the decision for raises during a closed session June 24 and approved the raise during the open session following it.

Board President Kelly Freeman said she'd like to do more.

"Imagine what we could do, if we had the money," she said. "We could do so much."