2013-11-07 / Front Page

Cut in hours due to ACA

County reacts to law, restricts part-timers

MANISTIQUE – Part time and temporary employees of Schoolcraft County can no longer work over 29 hours per week, due to the county’s reaction to the Affordable Care Act. The Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners adopted the new limit during a recent meeting.

According to Commissioner Dan LaFoille, the ACA will affect county part time or temporary employees who work more than 30 hours per week. When this happens, the county will be required to offer health insurance to those employees.

“We’re finding more and more that county commissions are setting a 29 hour maximum on their part-time employees,” LaFoille said. “Obviously that is to keep from adding the burden of medical insurance onto municipalities.”

County Clerk Dan McKinney explained that the ACA requires an administration, measurement and stability period for determining which employees must be offered insurance. He noted that it had been suggested to begin a 90- day administration period on Oct. 1, followed by a year-long measurement period beginning Jan. 1, 2014, and ending with a stability period in 2015.

“In 2014, if anybody who hits 30 or more hours on average – we’d be responsible for all of 2015,” he said. “So that’s what they’re saying – to start now.”

Commissioner Sue Cameron noted that since this portion of ACA would not take effect until 2015, the county could adopt a shorter measurement period to postpone the cut to employees’ hours.

McKinney explained that the county could perform a shorter measurement period, but it would mean more measuring for the county employees responsible for the task.

“If we want to implement six months, that’s totally up to the board,” he said. “But the year long measurement makes for a longer stability period where you don’t have to be measuring all the time.”

Commissioner Craig Reiter explained he had done his own research on the matter, and “weighed both sides” of the issue.

“I can see the problem that this may incur, however … all the measurements, all the accounting procedures that need to be followed,” he said. “If one hour was over, we’re looking at picking up … a six month, have to pay their insurance.”

Commissioner LaFoille corrected him, noting that individual employee hours would be averaged, and those averaging 30 hours or more per week would be those offered insurance.

“It’s pretty complicated,” he added.

Cameron noted the implementation of the ACA is a “double-edged sword” and many of the part-time employees will be negatively affected by the cut in hours.

“There’s a lot of people who are working the hours because they need the monies, and now they’re going to be penalized because of the Affordable Health Care Act,” she said. “The only thing it’s going to do … you might have to hire some more part time employees.”

Cameron also questioned whether county entities, which are run separately, such as the Schoolcraft County Medical Care Facility, would be included in the cut.

“If this goes into play … the Medical Care Facility – there are a lot of single people up there that work full time hours that are really going to be penalized,” she said.

McKinney said he was unsure if the MCF would be included.

LaFoille pointed to increases in the county’s share of medical insurance over the past five years – over 100 percent – as one of the primary reason for the limitation. He noted the county could not afford to take on part-time employees as well.

“The Affordable Care Act is good, but then it’s not good,” Cameron said. “There’s so much to it that it’s unbelievable and overwhelming.”

The limitation was unanimously approved by the board.

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It is my thought that it is

It is my thought that it is not the Affordable Care Act that is the problem. It is the unfortunate and unwise decisions of the people named in this article who are affecting the community in a very negative way by cutting hours just to not pay insurance. And then to hire more part time employees seems ridiculous. Why not use the salaries of the proposed additional part time employees to pay for the insurance of the employees you already have? Decisions like those above are detrimental to a community and will lead to the death of the area. People will have to move to get a living wage, businesses will close, and the wonderful spirit of this community will disappear.