St. Joseph school district compliant with Affordable Care Act

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

ST. JOSEPH — More than five years after the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, the St. Joseph school district is making the switch to cover the majority of its full-time employees’ health care.

Kathy Hamilton, the district’s chief financial officer, gave a brief presentation and answered questions from board members. Under ACA, the district must provide affordable health care to 70 percent of its full-time employees this year. The number grows to 95 percent for 2016. Hamilton expects the district also will be compliant next year. If not compliant, districts face fines.

In order to be considered a full-time employee and eligible for coverage, a staffer must work a minimum 30 hours a week. However, some employees hover above or below the 30-hour mark.

“We have what are called variable employees that you need to monitor to make sure you are offering them coverage if they are actually working 30 hours a week,” Hamilton said.

While the ACA’s intent is for 95 percent work force coverage, Hamilton said employers who have 100 or more employees are being given transitional relief.

This is the first year that St. Joseph must comply.

The district’s insurance carrier is Michigan Education Special Services Association (MESSA).

Set Sag, a school insurance specialist that helps organizations with ACA tracking and reporting services, has helped the district through the transition. Hamilton said the company has assisted more than 200 other districts through health care reform.

In order to properly track employees’ hours, Hamilton told trustees the district will go through three periods to make sure they are ACA compliant.

First comes the measurement period, in which employers monitor the number of hours people worked over the last year. An administration period comes next, in which employers administer the compliance and make sure they offer insurance to those who qualify. The stability period is last, in which the employer continues to monitor.

“The tracking and the monitoring is very time consuming for districts,” Hamilton said. “Offering health care is important, so completing the task to make sure we are compliant is time well-spent. When we finish this process with Set Sag and we file all our first forms that are due in January, then we’ll have a process in place for monitoring and tracking new employees.”

Trustees Corey Carolla and Tamara Patrick were not present for Monday’s study session.

The next school board meeting will take place at 6 p.m. on Oct. 16 in the North Lincoln Administration Building.

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Oct. 6, 2015)

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