Schools re-examine health care with 'Obamacare' delay

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American employers now have an extra year to comply with the Affordable Care Act, without fear of penalty.

The Obama administration announced the rule requiring some employers to provide health care benefits next year will be delayed until 2015. It requires companies and other employers, like schools, with 50 or more full-time workers, to offer benefits by January or pay a fine of at least $2,000 per employee.

The new regulations are having a huge financial impact on many public schools. They're struggling to suddenly provide insurance to part-time employees who work 30 or more hours a week. Some are cutting hours and reducing the time workers spend helping children in the classroom.

We caught up with Patty Horan watching over children at a playground. She knows teaching first graders is no walk in the park. Horan worries about getting less help from part-time teaching assistants.

"Those are some of the most important jobs in the district," she explained. "That one-on-one attention we can give to our children is vital."

The Affordable Care Act requires employers to provide health insurance to part time employees working more than 30 hours a week. That includes legions of school bus drivers, cafeteria workers, athletic coaches and classroom assistants.

The additional insurance coverage, Zionsville Schools figures, comes to more than a million dollars in unexpected costs.

Eyewitness News spoke with number of local schools today. Many had already had been providing health insurance to part-time workers and are unaffected by the changes. Some are still trying to determine what they will do. Other's a creating a new group of workers called "29ers"

They are workers who have been cut to 29 hours a week and are getting smaller pay checks so schools don't have to provide their insurance.

Postponing the new requirement, the executive director of Indiana's Association of Public School Superintendents Association J.T. Coopman says, prevents a train wreck.

"This year, reprieve is really going to be a blessing, I think, for many school districts that are still trying to figure out what to do," Coopman said.

School districts now have time to understand the requirements and try to find the necessary additional funding.

"Plus, it's going to give them more time to implement with practicality what the law requires them to do," Coopman added.

One question is whether schools that have already cut back will do an about face and give the time back to workers and children. Others are already planning what they will do between now and 2015 when the requirements take effect.

Everyone will be watching Washington to see if lawmakers change the rules to say only full time, 40 hours a week workers are entitled to health insurance.

A law intended to improve health care for moderate income families, some say is inadvertently threatening their economic health and children's educational opportunities.