|By Audrey Dutton, The Idaho Statesman|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
Remember when a
Forget that. All the rules are changing. This fall's insurance enrollment season is only months away, and it will be decision time for many
This year is shaping up to be a guessing game, with business people tapping their fingers on the table, waiting for federal rules to trickle out -- and wondering if they can possibly avoid an Affordable Care Act train wreck on
A TICKING CLOCK
Uncertainty has been a refrain since the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010. First, there was the wait-and-see approach that
Employers with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees must offer health care benefits to full-time workers starting next year.
If they don't, and any of those employees buys subsidized health insurance through an exchange, the employer will be fined
Employers with fewer workers, who make up a large share of
But that's just part of the broad picture sketched by the law. Agencies are filling in the brush strokes. All those tiny dabs of paint are hard to keep track of, so many
Nye is trying to stay on top of developments by attending forums and presentations by local attorneys and his district's health insurer, Regence BlueShield of
"It's a large barrier, and we're chipping away at it, but we don't know which chip will take the whole wall down -- so [that] we can see the next wall," he says.
"We figured out that our plan has adequate coverage" to meet the large-employer requirements of the Affordable Care Act. His worry right now is: With so many kinds of employees, to whom should the district be offering coverage?
Many of the district's workers put in 20-hour weeks just so they can get benefits. Nye wants to know who else the district must cover. Substitute teachers? Cafeteria workers? Playground supervisors? Part-time employees' family members?
One federal rule for employers caps how much a worker can be charged for health benefits without triggering a fine. It's 9.5 percent of household income.
An employer is unlikely to ask a worker how much their spouse makes. Federal regulators are offering some safe harbors for problems like that so employers don't get punished for having limited information. Nye says many of the school district's part-time workers will blow past the 9.5 percent threshold, since 40 percent to 60 percent of their paychecks may go straight into health insurance for themselves and their dependents.