Friday, September 09, 2016
Billy Long: Obamacare is hurting public education
It’s been six years since the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed, which is also known as the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare. On Sept. 8 Gallup announced the results of a poll conducted Aug. 30-31 in which 51% of Americans disapprove of Obamacare while only 44% approve. During my time as a Congressman I have worked hard to dismantle this law, which has not lived up to its hyperbole and promises.
In August I visited and talked with many community leaders in the 7th District, but one stop in particular reminded me once again of the amount of stress this law places on schools and small businesses.
I had the opportunity to speak with members of the Nixa Public School’s Board of Education and district administrators.
After speaking with them it confirmed again why I have been fighting to repeal this law that hurts schools and small businesses.
Two of their most pressing problems with the law were the 30-hour work week and the 26 week break for retired teachers.
The 30-hour work week, which is known as the employer mandate, requires all businesses or organizations with 50 or more employees to provide health insurance to their employees who work more than 30 hours a week. Nixa currently has 921 full-time staff.
The 26 week break is required for educational organizations that are unable to provide health insurance to faculty that recently retired. If ignored, that retired teacher would be seen as a “continuing employee,” which would require them to offer health insurance.
Brenda Rantz, the Executive Director of Finance for the school district and Board of Education Treasurer, pointed out that this is a huge problem as children need consistency in working with teachers and the 30-hour work week prevents that.
Nixa already spends $3.4 million a year on health care for their staff. Having to provide additional health care for substitute teachers who work more than 30 hours a week would add an additional financial burden to the district.
In one year, Nixa can have anywhere between 30 to 40 long-term substitute teachers. With 921 employees already in the district, adding substitute teachers, both long-term and short-term, could increase the number of employees up to 1,200.
Not only does the lack of consistency with substitute teachers play into their predicament, but finding high quality substitute teachers is more challenging. The 26 week break for retired teachers prevents those same teachers from coming back in less than six months. Those are the same teachers who know the students, know the faculty and know how the school operates.
This isn’t the first time I have heard a story like this. I have heard many across our district. These types of stories give me even more motivation to continue to push back against this law and that hurts not only individuals who need health care, but businesses and organizations that provide health care for their employees.