News and Tribune

July 17, 2013

Councilwoman calls for delay in reduction of work schedules

Part-time employees’ hours in the spotlight due to health care reform


NEW ALBANY — A delay in the implementation of fines associated with federal health care reform has work schedules of part-time employees in Floyd County in the spotlight.

On July 2, the Floyd County Commissioners voted to limit part-time employees to 28 hours of work a week to avoid penalties for not offering them health insurance, which is mandated by the Affordable Care Act.

But with President Barack Obama’s decision earlier this month to delay those fines until 2015, Floyd County Councilwoman Dana Fendley says county leaders should also change their minds.

The commissioners should rescind the resolution and allow part-time employees to go back to working their normal schedules until at least next year, Fendley requested this week.

However, without an official document from the federal government stating what portions of the Affordable Care Act will be delayed, the commissioners declined to vote on rescinding the resolution Tuesday.

“The information that we have is the law,” Commissioners President Steve Bush told Fendley. “It is the law. It is in writing. It is in front of us.”

Specifically, the commissioners are unsure of how the delay will affect the measurement period for deciding who are part-time employees.

Under the federal law, employers with 50 or more workers would be fined if they don’t provide health insurance to their employees. To qualify for health coverage, an employee must work 30 hours or more weekly.

A three-month measurement period was to be conducted this year to determine the number of hours an employee works weekly, thus the commissioners voted to scale back part-time workers to 28 hours beginning in July.

The county decided to set the mark at 28 hours to provide a buffer to ensure no one crossed the 30 hour barrier a week.

Though Obama elected to push the penalties back to 2015 instead of 2014, Bush said the county hasn’t been informed of when the measurement period will be held.

“We need to find out for sure what part of the Affordable Care Act has been postponed until 2015,” Commissioner Mark Seabrook said.

But Fendley doesn’t want the commissioners to delay in rescinding the resolution.

“We’ve got part-time employees who need the hours,” she said.

About 70 Floyd County employees fell under the part-time distinction, and Fendley said some have seen their schedules cut by one full day due to the new policy.

Fendley said in June it could cost around $1 million for the cash-strapped county to insure all of its part-time employees, as most of those workers were averaging around 34 hours per week before the change.

Commissioner Chuck Freiberger suggested the county consider paying part-time workers more, but Fendley said that might not be enough.

“Even at $2 to $3 dollars [more] an hour, we’re not going to make that up,” she said of the lost wages.

The county’s insurance agent, Richard Zoeller of Neace Lukens, anticipated the county would be on the hook for about $122,000 in penalties if it didn’t cut part-time hours or provide insurance to all employees.

He said Tuesday he’s also waiting for clarification as to what the delay in implementing the employer mandate will mean for Floyd County.

“It’s a good idea to defer it, but there’s no clarification in writing that says” when the measurement period will be conducted, Zoeller said.

Congress is also still grappling with the federal legislation that was signed into law in 2010.

The House this week has been holding votes designed to delay the individual and employer mandates of the Affordable Care Act; however, the measures aren’t expected to receive much traction in the Democrat-controlled Senate.