By Robert Stoneback
The Danville News
DANVILLE — School officials are crunching numbers to calculate what upcoming changes to healthcare laws spell for the district.
“There are many different pieces and parts to it…we’re taking it one day at a time,” said district business manager Janis Venna. While it is a great thing for people to have access to healthcare, she said, the regulations for doing so are incredibly complex.
Some factors are still up in the air since the federal government has yet to cement some portions of the Affordable Healthcare Act.
“It’s really hard, you’re making guesstimates without knowing everything that’s involved,” said Venna.
The district has been in talks with both Geisinger and the Central Susquehanna Trust on finding different ways to modify their health plan to meet the guidelines presented by the Affordable Healthcare Act, said Venna.
“We’ve called in different insurers who have different plans to get a feel for what is out there, what might work for our district,” added school board president Allan Schappert.
Venna is currently in the process of going through the district payroll and calculating how many employees will qualify for healthcare that did not before. While she did not have exact numbers, she said she knew that there will be employees who will qualify under the government’s new healthcare parameters which take affect Jan. 1, 2014.
Under the previous healthcare laws, district employees qualified for coverage if they worked 32.5 hours a week. Come 2014, employees who work 30 hours a week will be eligible for healthcare coverage.
Venna is also gauging whether or not the district’s plan crosses into a threshold that would mark it as a “Cadillac plan,” a term for a plan that is rich in benefits. Starting in 2018, if employee-sponsored coverage exceeds $10,200 for single coverage or $27,500 for family coverage, a 40 percent excise tax will be applied to the coverage which exceeds these thresholds, said Venna. She estimated that, under current rates, the teachers’ healthcare plan will reach those thresholds by about 2020-2021.
The first part of the new health care laws is educating the school board on what changes will be taking place. “That’s the first step. Then we put a plan in place,” said Venna.
At the board’s April 23 meeting, school district attorney Ben Pratt reviewed several factors of the upcoming law.
“It’s a very fluid environment. I can pretty much guarantee no one has a handle on everything,” said Schappert.
Healthcare contracts are negotiated between the district and its two main unions, the support staff union and the teachers’ Danville Education Association, said Schappert. The support staff pays a five percent premium for their healthcare plan and the DEA pays a 10 percent premium, with the extra costs being picked up by the district.
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