Rep. Kline says health care law will undermine education

  • Article by: COREY MITCHELL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 29, 2013 - 10:28 PM

To ease law’s costs, expect fewer programs and limits on part-time staffers, the GOP congressman says.

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U.S. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn.

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– In a newly established line of attack on the Affordable Care Act, Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., who leads the House Education Committee, is highlighting stories of school districts’ plans to cut back on programs and part-time staffers to meet the demands of the health care law.

By mid- to late 2014, public and private employers will be deciding whether to cut employees’ hours as a way to avoid the extra cost of providing health care benefits that comply with the new federal requirements.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires companies with at least 50 workers to provide health insurance to those working an average of 30 hours or more per week. Not doing so can result in fines of up to $3,000 per employee. Policies required under the law are more expansive than some now offered by some school districts.

“You’re looking at dollars and cents, and you’re going to have to make choices,” Kline said during a recent committee hearing on Capitol Hill.

In addition, if employees lose hours or school programs are cut as schools juggle added expenses, the timing could allow otherwise vulnerable GOP House members to attack Democratic opponents on the issue just before next year’s elections.

Democrats say the health care law will help hourly and adjunct employees who have no insurance and who would have little prospects of getting any without the ACA.

“It raises a really serious issue about ... who gets inside the system and who gets outside the system,” said California Rep. George Miller, the lead Democrat on the House Education Committee.

The debate over the law’s benefits is evident, even in Kline’s district, which covers the southern Twin Cities suburbs.

Hitting home

The Hastings School District already plans to hire classroom aides, food service and transportation employees for 5.75-hour workdays instead of eight hours to avoid providing them insurance, Superintendent Timothy Collins said.

Collins declined to provide an estimate of how much the health care law’s provisions might cost the district.

In the Northfield public schools, also in Kline’s district, there are no plans to cut employee hours or jobs, said Molly Viesselman, human resources director for the district.

“We would definitely do what we could to maintain our employee hours and make sure people have insurance,” Viesselman said.

Minnesota Department of Education officials could not provide an estimate on how many workers might be newly eligible for health care benefits under the law.

Many districts, including Northfield, already insure employees who work an average of 30 hours or more per week, said Bruce Lamprecht, president of the Minnesota Association of School Business Officials.

When surveying districts this fall, the organization still found “a certain amount of angst and uncertainty” about implementing the law, said Lambrecht, also the director of business services for Marshall public schools in western Minnesota.

Higher education leaders share that anxiety.

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