Some schools say new health care law too expensive

GREENFIELD, Ind. (WISH) — Members of Congress will meet in Indiana Thursday to talk about the impact of the federal health care law specifically on businesses and schools.

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce field hearing is set for 10 a.m. inside Greenfield City Hall.

Officials in some districts, including Zionsville, say they can’t afford the law’s requirements without cutting worker hours.

Chief Financial Officer Mike Shafer said the district had to reduce the hours of about 150 employees and place a “rigid not-to-exceed” cap on nearly 200 others.

They say it primarily has to do with how “full-time worker” is defined. The law says that’s someone who works at least 30 hours per week.

Shafer said not reducing worker hours would’ve cost them “very heavy excise taxes,” about $1.6 million per year. He said the cost of offering the health care would have cost the corporation about $1.17 million per year.

“Neither of those options was remotely affordable for the school corporation, which left us with the unpalatable but necessary course of action of reducing workers’ hours,” said Shafer.

Lafayette Superintendant Less Huddle said his district has done the same.

“The anticipated increase to the corporation’s costs was too much for our budget,” said Huddle. “To increase the corporation’s costs to the level we anticipated, would have caused us to cut and/or reduce other programs.”

“We are not opposed to ACA (Affordable Care Act,) and we wish we had the funding to provide insurance to all of our employees,” said Fort Wayne Community Schools spokeswoman Krista Stockman. “But as we must live within the budget provided by the state, that is not possible.”

The issue has sparked debate online.

“Uh … schools are forced to cut because the state refuses to give them money to operate, don’t blame the healthcare,” one person responded via Twitter.

School officials will have the chance to testify during Thursday’s field hearing.

U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly, (D-Indiana) introduced a bill in Congress that would redefine “full time worker” as someone who works 40 hours per week. U.S. Representative Luke Messer (R-6th District) has introduced a bill to exempt schools from requirements. A spokesperson for Messer’s office said a companion bill has also been introduced in the Senate.

Not all districts are in the same position. A spokesperson for Decatur Township Schools in Marion County said they are “minimally impacted” the Affordable Care Act.

“Several of our non-certified/support employees live in Decatur Township and have children who attend our schools,” said spokesperson Suzanne Rothenberg.”It is important for us to ensure that our employees, students, and families are able to access the resources that keep them healthy and productive members of our MSD Decatur Township community.”

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