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NNY school districts look to comply with federal Affordable Care Act

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Some part-time north country school district employees, who were not previously eligible for health insurance benefits, could be covered under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Districts are trying to find out how to comply with the federal act before potential penalties begin in early 2015.

“The most frequent question I’ve heard is, ‘Who do we offer health insurance to?’” said Lisa K. Smith, General Brown Central School District treasurer.

Many long-term substitutes, or substitute teachers who are called frequently, could average at least 30 hours per week, and therefore be eligible for health benefits, she said.

The General Brown Board of Education recently reviewed, in an initial draft reading during an October board meeting, a revision to its health insurance policy that included how part-time or intermittent employees may obtain health insurance under the federal act.

According to the draft policy update, except for employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement or an individual employment agreement, remaining employees eligible for health insurance under the federal act will pay up to one-quarter of the premium for enrollment in an individual plan under the district’s health insurance provider, up to 9.5 percent of their salary. The federal act has determined that any plan above the 9.5 percent cap is unaffordable.

General Brown board members are expected to review the policy update during their meeting Tuesday at Dexter Elementary School, 415 E. Grove St.

“We needed something in writing,” Mrs. Smith said.

Dominic S. D’Imperio, Jefferson-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services director of employee/employer relations, said he will give a presentation Wednesday to Jefferson and Lewis counties’ school districts about the topic.

“Whether it’s a school district, board of education or municipality, unless there’s a policy and board action, they can’t spend money without approval,” he said. “The governing body has to figure out how to comply with it.”

He said the total impact may hit smaller districts harder since they may offer lower salaries, therefore hitting the 9.5 percent cap more quickly than some of the larger school districts that can offer higher salaries.

General Brown is the first local district to create such a policy revision, Mr. D’Imperio said, but there are many superintendents within Jefferson and Lewis counties “who are moving down this road.”

A call seeking comment from St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES Superintendent Thomas R. Burns was not immediately returned Thursday.

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