Local employers struggle with Affordable Care Act

The city of Mason usually has 200 or more part-time workers routinely working over the 30-hour per week limit set out in President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. City Manager Eric Hansen said the city has struggled with the issue for months.

“No one liked it, I think there was a bit of resentment or kind of indignation on many levels,” Hansen said. “And then we had to go out and announce to employees that beginning May 1 we had to redo their schedules to 20 hours per week.”

Hansen said the Mason Community Center took the biggest hit because it has the most part-timers. The fire department also uses part-time firefighters and there are other department impacted as well.

There have been many repercussions to the city and its employees. They have hired additional employees which involves more money, time and training. There were so many part-time life guards at the Lou Eves Pool the city contracted with an outside firm to take over. The city has also become more flexible with part-time workers so they can look for and work a second part-time job.

“It doesn’t encourage increased health care coverage, it doesn’t encourage increased employment, it devolves us into a nation of people working two or three part-time jobs,” Hansen said.

Hansen also said if only one employee works more than 30 hours all part-time employees must have access to the city-paid portion of health care insurance.

A study by University of California Berkley Labor Center showed that 6.4 million workers in companies with 100 or more workers in the U.S. work 30 to 36 hours per week are in jeopardy of having their hours cut when the law takes effect in 2014. Another 3.6 million workers have varied work schedules and also may be vulnerable to time cuts.

Other jurisdictions don’t seem to have the problem to Mason’s degree and both Butler and Warren counties are in the midst of studying the impact of the president’s plan.

Lebanon City Manager Pat Clements said most of their part-time staff is in the fire department. Fire Chief Mike Hannigan said 18 firefighter/paramedics usually work more than 30 hours a week, as a result they need to hire 25 additional personnel to keep manpower levels the same. As of mid-May they were able to hire eight people. Hannigan estimated it will cost $120,000 to provide equipment for the additional people. Providing health insurance for the current 18 people was estimated at $360,000.

Noah Powers, Middletown’s human resources director, said the city had about 100 part-time workers working over the course of the year in 2012. He said they looked at the issue but haven’t decided yet what to do about it. Insurance costs vary in the city from $505 per month for a single employee to $1,377 monthly for a family plan.

Hamilton’s Acting Finance Director Ana Ramanathan said they only have 20 to 30 part-time employees and since the law is still kind of a “moving target” she couldn’t say how much it would cost to insure the part-timers, if they decide they want to.

Several jurisdictions, like Liberty and Deerfield townships already follow the 1,500-hours-per-year rule in the Ohio Revised Code for townships, so the health care act shouldn’t impact them.

Ed Knabb, who is a part-time manager on duty at the Mason Community Center said he only works 25 hours a week now and has health care provided by his former employer the Mt. Healthy Schools where he was a principal. He said however, he has seen the new rule negatively impact his co-workers who have find second jobs or other jobs altogether and his relatives who own businesses.

“At this point in time my view is it’s a lose-lose on both sides,” he said. “A lot of people on either side are hurt, I think it’s probably a decent program in some ways, but I don’t know if it was totally thought out as far as the ramifications.”

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