Facing an October 1 deadline for notifying employees about its health insurance offerings under the federal Affordable Health Care Act, the DeKalb County Board of Education Tuesday night voted to make no changes in the benefits for employees, at least for now.
Though funds are budgeted to pay more toward single health insurance coverage for all full time classified (support staff) who want it beginning January1, 2014, the board has decided not to implement the plan since the federal government is postponing enforcement of the so-called employer mandate under the Affordable Health Care Act until 2015.
The individual mandate, a linchpin of the law that requires most Americans to carry health insurance, remains in effect. People who don't already have it will be required to buy healthcare insurance starting January, 1, 2014. The health insurance marketplaces are set to open October 1 to sell coverage that will take effect on January 1, 2014.
The local school system currently pays a portion of its employee's health insurance coverage under plans made available through the state. Certified employees who have either a single or a family plan pay 36% and the school system picks up 64%. Support staff pay 49% of their coverage and the school system pays a 51% matching portion. While the school system meets the affordable health care requirements for certified personnel, it apparently falls short when it comes to support staff.
"It (Affordable Health Care Act) says no one can be paying over 9.5% of their income for (health) insurance. We have a group of employees, if they stay with the present plan without us doing anything, they would be paying over 9.5%," said Director of Schools Mark Willoughby.
Under the federal act, all employers with more than 50 full time employees are to provide coverage to their workers or be subject to fines, once the law is implemented. Full-time employees are defined as those who work an average of 30 or more hours per week each month.
To meet the requirements for full time support staff, the school board came up with a plan for offering single health insurance coverage when putting together its new budget earlier this summer. Those support staff employees who elected to take it would have had to pay ninety dollars per month, effective January 1, 2014. The school system would have covered the rest. The budget provides for no additional insurance benefit for certified personnel.
With the school board's action Tuesday night, support staff will not be entitled to that extra benefit come January 1, 2014. At least not yet.
"We had a discussion prior to the meeting tonight in a workshop about Affordable Health Care Insurance," said Chairman Johnny Lattimore. We have to make a decision tonight about what we want to do. Whether to implement what we voted on earlier in the year with the changes or to put this on pause and hold off and wait to see what the federal government does with affordable health care. As we all know, whatever they've got planned today may change tomorrow. So we don't know what's going to happen within the next year before all of this has to be implemented," he said.
"We need a motion on the floor to accept what we already had voted on previously (with passage of the budget) or we need a motion to put everything on pause and leave it like it is for now," said Lattimore.
"We need to make sure we don't run into any complications," said Fifth district board member W.J. (Dub) Evins, III. "Don't you feel we need to go ahead and adhere to what we have already done?" asked Evins.
"I think that would be one option but I don't know what all the ramifications will be as the rules will change, " replied Director Willoughby. "As I have stated before, this will help some people. It won't harm anybody but there will be a large group that it won't help. The people who have family coverage it will not help. The rules may not change or they may change," said Willoughby.
"We have to let the employees know what our plan is by October 1. But whatever we do. If we don't do anything or if we do go ahead, we have to get that information out to all employees by October 1 for us to follow the federal guide lines," continued Director Willoughby.
"They (government) are saying we do not have to change anything (current plan) but we can change anything. From the very beginning I've always recommended that we do more for all our employees. This particular healthcare does not say we have to do anything for all employees. It says we have to do something for a group of employees. No one can be paying over 9.5% of their income for insurance. We have a group of employees, who if they stay with the present plan without us doing anything, they would be paying over 9.5%," said Willoughby.
"The best thing to do is to pay for everybody's (health insurance) but we can't afford to pay for everybody," Willoughby concluded.
"I make a motion that we keep it as it has been in the past until we have additional information to direct us otherwise," said Evins.
Board member Doug Stephens offered a second to the motion. All board members present voted in favor including Evins, Stephens, Billy Miller, John David Foutch, Charles Robinson, and Johnny Lattimore. Board member Kenny Rhody was absent.