Health Care Reform and School Boards

By Lawrence Hardy

District XYZ” may be stuck with an unwieldy name, but that’s the least of its worries.

The district is having trouble complying with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), otherwise known as Obamacare. The law says XYZ, considered a large employer under ACA, must offer health care insurance to 95 percent of its full-time employees or face stiff penalties.

Logical? Perhaps. But the 1,000-student district negotiates contracts with more than one union. It turns out that the union representing the custodians, who constitute 10 percent of the district’s full-time employees, decided after reviewing the health insurance plans available through the state’s exchange that it didn’t want coverage for its members, preferring other kinds of compensation instead.

The problem is, the district can’t honor the union’s request because doing so would put it under the
95 percent coverage threshold.

The state’s labor commissioner says the district must honor the union’s request. ACA says, in effect, that the district can’t honor the request without getting into big trouble with the health care law.

District XYZ is hypothetical, of course, but its problems are real. In a March 2013 letter to the Internal Revenue Service, NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón Jr. conjured XYZ to illustrate just one of many burdens school districts face in trying to comply with the law.

“Given that this is surely NOT what the Affordable Care Act intended, how does the school district handle this situation?” Negrón asked.

Unfortunately for the Obama administration, unintended consequences have plagued ACA from its start last fall. So many people tried to sign up for the program at once that the online traffic overwhelmed -- a site that was clearly not up to the task. It crashed repeatedly, and many people became frustrated and gave up.

Most of those flaws eventually were fixed, however. By the close of the program’s initial enrollment period on March 31, it had enrolled at least 9.5 million previously uninsured people. That number, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis, represents “the largest expansion of health coverage in America in half a century.”

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