Rather than be forced to provide employees working an average of more than 30 hours per week with insurance benefits, the Starke County Commissioners this week passed a motion preventing part-time employees from working more than 130 hours per month beginning July 1.
The Affordable Care Act will require businesses with at least 50 employees to offer health insurance to employees working at least 30 hours per week. Those that don’t provide the required coverage will be forced to pay a $2000 penalty per worker, excluding the first 30 employees. The act doesn’t take effect until Jan. 1, 2014, but in order to determine which employees average enough hours to qualify for the benefits, employers will have to go back three to 12 months from Jan. 1, 2014. To counteract that, many employers, including counties, are modifying their salary ordinances early.
Commissioner Jennifer Davis tossed up the idea of hiring more full-time employees and relying less on part-timers, but that move would cost the county more in the long run as the county tends to pay full-time employees higher wages than part-time employees.
County Attorney Marty Lucas explained that employees working on average at least 30 hours per week or 130 hours per month would be required to be offered health insurance, but cutting the hours of part-time employees back would hurt the county EMS Department according to EMS Director Paul Mathewson. He said cutting employees down to 28 hours would wreak havoc for his department because part-time employees work between 24 and 36 hours weekly in order to coordinate a suitable 24-hour-service schedule.
Since the first 30 employees are exempt from bringing penalties down on the county, Commissioner Kathy Norem wondered about the option of exempting EMS employees from the hourly reduction, as Mathewson said he only has eight or so part-time employees that would be affected. For now, however, the commissioners passed a motion reducing part-time employees to a maximum of 130 hours per month beginning July 1, giving Mathewson more flexibility when building a schedule around the new law.