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Health care changes to hit substitute teachers

Area school systems look at how Affordable Care Act to impact staff

POSTED: July 5, 2013 12:47 a.m.

Both Hall and Gainesville school systems are looking at how the Affordable Care Act not only impacts their full-time employees, but substitute teachers as well.

The main question is whether or not substitutes are working full time. While many don’t, there are some who would qualify for health insurance at both systems under the new rules.

“What they’re saying is, if a person works 30 hours a week, they will be eligible for our health care,” said Deputy Superintendent Lee Lovett.

The employer shared responsibility provisions of the ACA state that employers with 50 or more employees must provide health coverage to full-time employees, and their dependents. Full-time employees are defined as working 30 or more hours a week.

If insurance is not provided, the school systems would be subjected to penalties and fines.

The employer mandate was expected to begin Jan. 1, 2014. However, the White House announced Tuesday that it would be postponed until 2015 to allow companies more time to prepare.

Both school systems were gathering information about hours worked, income levels and other data required by the government.

Gainesville Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said that she plans to suggest the school board hire a consultant for the work to ensure compliance with the new standards.

“We are relieved that we have more time to meet the mandates,” she said Wednesday. “With more planning time, we will be able to explore more options.”

She also cautioned that there may be more changes around the ACA in the coming months.

Lovett said there are currently around 1,100 substitutes in the Hall school system.

“Obviously, we don’t use nearly all of those in a day,” he said. “There are some that substitute every day, almost.”

The substitute management system that Hall uses has the capability to track the number of hours substitutes work, and Lovett said that’s being looked at as an option to manage hours.

In Gainesville, there are 50 “very active” substitutes, with an additional 60 “somewhat active,” according to Dyer.

Both school systems are looking at different options in handling the situation. Lovett suggested one option would be to allow substitutes to work seven hours as opposed to eight, thus being able to work four days a week with no penalties.

Dyer pointed out that there would be some cases when it would be unavoidable for a substitute to work less than 30 hours, like when a teacher needs to take extended leave due to pregnancy or medical circumstances. She suggested that the few substitutes who would be eligible to step in and replace those teachers in the classrooms during such times would be eligible for health care.

Both Dyer and Lovett stressed that any final decisions have not been made yet.

In a national survey conducted in 2012 by STEDI.org, a research-based initiative providing training materials and services for substitute teachers, 100 percent of districts have some number of substitutes working more than 30 hours weekly, while 43 percent of school districts have more than 15 percent of substitutes working more than 30 hours.

Ninety-two percent of those districts don’t currently offer health insurance to substitutes, according to that June 2012 survey.

“Substitutes are considered temporary help, and we never have had to insure temporary help before,” Lovett said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report


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