UPDATE: How Are Districts Handling the Affordable Care Act?
Last year we conducted a survey to find out how school districts were preparing for the then-pending Affordable Care Act. Recently we re-conducted that same survey to see how statistics have changed in the last year. Here were some of our key takeaways from the last two years:
Majority of districts tracking employee hours
Regardless of your decision to reduce or not to reduce employee hours, most school districts need to be tracking time for variable-hour employees. The number of districts tracking hours for both employees and substitutes rose from 35% last year to 72% this year, with another 24% either tracking only employee hours or at least planning to.
That means 96% of districts surveyed have a plan to track employee hours.
If you still don’t have a plan, you need to form one as soon as possible. The wait for the ACA is over.
At the very least, your district needs to determine the following:
- Do you know your employer status? You a “large employer” if you employ 50 or more full-time employees and full-time equivalents. If so, you’re liable for providing health care benefits.
- Do your part-time employees put you at risk? If you have variable-hour employees (substitute teachers, bus drivers, etc.) who would qualify as full-time by working an average of more than 30 hours a week or 130 hours a month, you need to have a plan to track their hours.
- Do those employees make up more than 5% of your total full-time employees? Employers with 100 or more full-time employees are required to offer coverage to 70% of full-time employees in 2015, followed by 95% in 2016.
If you answered “yes” to all those questions, you need to be tracking and making plans to provide insurance or manage those hours.
More districts moving to electronic systems
According to the survey, 80% of school districts have moved from tracking employee hours on paper to an online employee time-tracking system – a 24% increase from last year! This means that just a fifth of school districts are still using paper.
School districts with an online system for tracking employee time have a definite advantage over those sifting through piles of paper timesheets in file cabinets.
Do you know how you are going to report to the DOL? If your district is still tracking employee time manually, take some time to either look into online, automated time-tracking systems or start to plan how you will get that physical data into a reportable format.
Districts divided on reducing PT hours
School districts are still split about 50/50 on reducing hours for part-time employees.
This divide could be for several different reasons: districts are already providing benefits or plan to offer benefits to those working more than 30 hours, they only have a few employees that would qualify, or they are managing employee hours already based on their schedules.
Whichever path you choose, the important thing to remember is to not be caught off guard. Make sure you know, based on past and scheduled hours, which employees will potentially qualify as full-time and what your plan is to address them.
More districts limiting substitute hours
Whether districts should limit substitute hours has become an important question over the last two years. Substitute eligibility for benefits is one of those topics that would have never come up in conversation at a district three years ago. And for many districts, the number of substitutes working enough hours to qualify is so low, so it may still not be a major issue.
However, even more districts are limiting or plan to limit substitute hours – from 60% of districts last year to 68% this year.
This percentage is higher than those who have decided to reduce hours for part-time employees – possibly because school districts are not used to tracking hours for substitutes and want a safeguard to ensure subs do not go over the threshold and count as full-time.
Alternatively, some districts are turning to other methods to address the health care law, like hiring a few permanent substitutes or outsourcing subs to a staffing firm.
Have a plan!
Every district is different — we can’t say for sure what the best plan is for you, but we are advising you to establish one as soon as possible.