TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) - More than three years after the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, one big piece of health care reform is just months away from taking effect.
The employer mandate requires all employers with 50 or more full time workers to offer health care to employees who work an average of 30 or more hours a week beginning Jan. 1, 2014.
Tippecanoe County Commissioner Tom Murtaugh (R) says the planning process is already underway.
"It's about $15,000 per employee to offer that full package so that's huge," Murtaugh says.
Multiply that by 48 part-time county employees who would currently qualify for health care and that number gets even larger, more than $700,000. Murtaugh says most employees are in places open 24 hours a day like the jail, the Cary Home and the Tippecanoe County Villa.
Murtaugh says department heads will either have to cut back or budget for it.
"It will be a significant impact to the department budget," he adds. "In most of those cases we're going to see those hours trimmed back."
There are far fewer eligible part-time employees in Lafayette, just one. But the cost per person can be just as high. A health care plan for an employee and his or her family costs the city $31,000 a year, just in premiums.
"We'll take it on a case-by-case basis and see how critical the task is. If we can get it down to less than the 30 hours, that's what we'll do," says Kim Meyer, Human Resources Director for the city of Lafayette.
City officials will also be carefully monitoring the hours for employees currently averaging around 25 hours a week, close to the 30-hour threshold. If the city breaks the law, "what we're hearing from our legal counsel is that there can be some significant penalties under the health care reform act," Meyer says.
With seasonal employees, those who work less than 120 days a year, not counting for health care, West Lafayette has a handful of part-time employees who would qualify. Mayor John Dennis (R) says he may add more part-time employees to keep everyone under the threshold or just leave some positions open.
"When you look at the restrictions of the revenue stream for local government, it's important that we be very fiscally conservative when we do those assessments," says Dennis.
Those assessments are not just for the public sector.
"It's not just governmental entities that are facing this, I'm sure it's the private sector as well," Murtaugh says.
All employers who have more than 50 full-time equivalent employees fall under the employer mandate.
Murtaugh adds consultants have told him to expect a cost jump of 10 percent for implementing the legislation.
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