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Idaho school district makes expected move to cut health coverage costs

Health Care and Health Insurance
by Glenn Tobleman
Costs for health insurance are declining nationwide
Costs for health insurance are declining nationwide

One of the most common predictions made by experts in the wake of the business coverage mandate of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act seems to now be coming true. Unfortunately, that could be bad news for consumers if it becomes a trend.

The Twin Falls School District in Idaho recently made the decision to cut hours for more than 150 employees as a means of ensuring they would not meet the ACA's threshold for providing insurance coverage, according to a report from the Twin Falls Times-News. As a result, school district employees from food service workers to teachers' aides and more will see their hours drop to 27.5 per week, from anywhere between 30 and 34.

The ACA mandates that all people working at least 30 hours per week would have to receive health insurance benefits from their employers, but the school board says doing so for more than 150 people would have cost the district some $1 million annually, the report said. As a result of these changes, though, those workers' salaries are slated to fall anywhere between $535 and $2,100 per year.

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Previously, the workers whose pay and hours are being reduced received health insurance, but had to make larger contributions to their premiums than actual full-time workers, but under the ACA the coverage options offered to them would have had to be the same, the report said. Shannon Swafford, director of human resources for the school district, directly attributed the move to the ACA's rules. Some of these employees have already taken jobs elsewhere as a consequence.

Meanwhile, neighboring school boards have reported varying plans of attack on this potentially pressing issue, the report said. While some may go the same route as Twin Falls, others say they are committed to retaining their workers at their current levels, and still working to find a way to squeeze a little bit more out of their budgets.

These shifting ideas from businesses in particular about the ways in which they will approach health insurance coverage as more aspects of the ACA's mandates take effect could have a major impact on policy providers. For this reason, the companies issuing such plans might want to make a greater effort to offer as many options as possible, which could help ensure greater flexibility when dealing with wary employers in particular.



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