Pattye Benson

Community Matters

TE School District response to the Affordable Care Act — Reduce employee hours

Now that the dust begins to settle on yesterday’s announcement that the TE School District will not outsource jobs of aides, paraeducators and substitute teachers for the 2013/14 school year, residents and employees are again left with more questions than answers.

My initial reaction upon hearing the news that 260 District jobs were saved from outsourcing was enthusiastic; but now in hindsight, I admit it was probably premature. I was thrilled for this group of employees, believing that the School Board had finally recognized their value and commitment to the District’s children, in making the choice not to outsource.

However, after spending a few minutes reviewing Burak’s email to the employees in addition to phone calls and emails, the celebratory mood quickly changed. The statement reads that the “District will restructure the work hours” of the employee to comply with the Affordable Care Act and “does not result in new costs or penalties to the District”.

What we learn from Burak’s words is that the School Board’s way around the ACA compliance issue it to reduce employee hours. The ACA does not require the District to provide health insurance to those employees working less than 30 hours a week – so the District’s answer to the Federal law is simple… cut hours. TESD is the only school district in the area that does not provide health insurance for their employees – Great Valley, Radnor and Lower Merion school districts all offer healthcare coverage to all their employees.

Does the School Board want the community to feel good about what they are doing? Is this an acceptable solution? Where is the plan for the future … the vision … leadership?

Keeping healthcare coverage out of the hands of the least paid and oh, by the way, we are reducing your hours to comply with Federal law. This same Board gave the District administrators salary increases and bonuses and in less than 4 months is now cutting the hours of aides and paras. But don’t forget the Board also gave this group of employees a 1% raise. If you are an employee making $10/hr., with your 1% raise you will now make $10.10/hr. However, don’t get too excited District employee because we now must reduce your hours below 30 to avoid offering you health insurance.

Let’s review; the Board gives bonuses, raises and a Cadillac health plan to the highest paid District employees but provides no insurance coverage and cuts the hours of the least paid District employees. Seems hardly fair or equitable.

I had a phone call last night from a District aide who works 37 hours a week and cannot afford for her hours to drop below 30 hours. Her family’s health insurance is covered through her husband’s employer and they do not need coverage from the District. Her question to me — would she still be able to work the 37 hours a week in the District because she does not need the health insurance from the District. Of course, I could offer no definitive response. What would she have to do, sign an agreement with the District saying she wouldn’t take the health insurance if they offered it to her? This aide also wanted to know ‘when’ this matter would be resolved, what was the timeline for knowing if she would have 29 hours or 37 hours? Again, I don’t know and School Board President Buraks offered no details, except to enjoy the summer and he’d see them in the Fall.

I recall previous suggestions about reducing the hours below 30 hours so that the District would not have to offer health care coverage and comply with the Affordable Care Act. Dan Waters response was immediately negative to that suggestion, stating that the kids would suffer with the reduction in hours. Yet magically a month later, are we now to believe that the kids will no longer be in danger with a reduction in the hours of the aides and paras?

Beyond the personal effect on the employee in reduction of hours, how exactly does the District expect to make up the discrepancy and provide adequate coverage for the students? Is the plan to hire additional part-time employees to make up the missing hours? If so, at what cost?

Addressing the District aides, paras and substitute teachers in his email, Buraks states, “… we greatly value and appreciate the contributions that you make to our students and staff every day.” – To that, I’d say that you certainly have an odd way of showing it!

Bottom line … there are many unanswered questions and the employees and the residents deserve answers. Finance Committee meeting is Monday, June 10, 7 PM at Conestoga High School. I hope that the Board and the administration is prepared to respond to the questions.

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  1. This is classic example of “Be careful what you ask for” This is the situation that Obamacare causes. But TE is not the only one doing this. Papa John’s and Applebees are large companies that made the same move as TE.

      1. yep, thats the marketplace. TE will soon find out how it works. the district that is… just like Papa johns found out. If it effects their business model, they will respond.. TE may still lose their qualified aides and paras if the board tries to stick it to them.. consequences and law of unintended consequences. Neal is correct, there is much unknown about ACA, incredibly. Business and school districts have to respond to what is known so far. And it is ugly.

    1. Still it does not make it right! lets be honest..I am sure PJ and Applebees pull in enough money to cover the expenses of the new law! They just do not want to pay it. So like TE what it does it hurts the smaller employee…not execs or a person we all know pulling in about 300,000 in salary and extras.

      1. and why should they be forced to pay it? Until the federal government nationalizes applebees and papa johns they are FREE to run their businesses as they choose. Right?

        1. I do not agree with ACA. I think in Europe it is a mess. I think how it was structured here it will be a mess. However that is a conversation for another time. As for Applebees and PJ, you are right they are free to run their companies the way they want. However we can have the opinion that because on Jan 1st when ACA goes into place that if they decide not to cut hours or let go of employees, both very very successful companies will still be fine moving forward. As opposed to cutting hours and letting go of low paid employees. Like noted before, yes they can do what they want. But it does not make it right.
          Now for TE…it is in my opinion..they are using the ACA as excuse to save money.

  2. Today is a good day for education in the Tredyffrin- Easttown School District. I salute Mrs. Benson for keeping the community informed without spin.

    I hate to put a cloud over the temporary sunshine, (ignoring today’s weather) but the war is not over just because one battle has been won. Now is not the time to put away your voices and go back to hiding out until the next crisis occurs. Our school district is still under attack from those who believe in austerity over the prosperity that comes from investing in a great education.

    Remember that School Board members tend to react to those who speak out at public meetings. I remember after the tennis court fight was resolved, there was very low attendance. This is a pattern we need to break.

    Now is the time to keep fighting for better stewardship of our excellent education system. The Board must improve their due diligence and keep in mind that they don’t answer to the Administration but to their neighbors and the residents who elected them to serve the needs of our community.

    I am still saddened there was no public statement by any board member in response to the many reports of bullying by our school administrators. District employees have felt too threatened to speak out because they believe their jobs are at risk. We cannot stand by while a climate of intimidation continues, and we have a right to expect the Board’s condemnation of such behavior.

    What must we do going forward? It is time to eliminate the use of the consent agenda. Even the most routine matters should have greater public scrutiny. Certainly a decision as significant to our District as outsourcing should never have been on it. We must encourage more community involvement through the creation of ongoing community advisory boards. This group of taxpayers would meet regularly with the School Board, which now seems to take its direction from the Administration.

    And why limit community discussion to comments made at school board meetings? Make all school board email public to the community. I also believe that we should not hire any contractor to work for the district that has ties to any member of the school board. We should have full transparency.

    There are many questions still to be worked out. Just putting off outsourcing is easy. What’s next? Why not spend more time considering plans that value District employees while keeping costs down, such as the plan Neal Colligan and Pattye developed from their research and discussion with aides, paraprofessionals and substitutes. We need to stop using scare tactics and deal with reality. Reducing all 260 employees to part-time status to avoid providing healthcare is a bottom-line decision that ignores fairness.

    I believe every possible revenue stream must be on the table. As a preacher and manager in social services, I have found there is no shortage of generous supporters for worthy causes. We have cut our educational system to the point that it is diminishing the quality of education in T/E. Our highest priority must be to keep valued educational programs and activities intact.

    We must be willing to stay the course by making smart decisions as a whole community. May God bless our schools and the decision- makers who guide its direction.

    1. It is time to eliminate the use of the consent agenda. Even the most routine matters should have greater public scrutiny. Certainly a decision as significant to our District as outsourcing should never have been on it

      Scott, Agree with you — the elimination of the consent agenda would be a good first step to transparency in this school district!

    2. Scott, you are a gentleman. I appreciate reading your insights. One question:

      Some issues on the consent agenda, specifically legal matters that the board deals with,may not be best suited for transparency. Aren’t there privacy issues mandated by law and other issues that are best not commented on to protect the integrity of the lawsuits? Wouldnt lawyers for the district request that some things not be spoken for fear of reprisal in litigation? I think the consent agenda serves a purpose, at least in the hands of ethical people and maybe its reason for existence has to be tweaked and RULES need to be made very public? Thanks

    3. Mr. Dorsey,

      Thank-you for your comment. You have some very good points – could you please clarify this statement

      “Our district is still under attack from those who believe in austerity over the prosperity that comes from investing in a great education.”

      I think “under attack from those….” is a pretty strong description of people who believe that when the economy is dreadful and citizens are suffering from unemployment that expenses should be curbed and spending cut until tax payers who pay for all of this experience relief in a job market where wages and benefits continue to be cut and unemployment continues to rise.

      Are you suggesting that directors ask for an exception to taxing limits or that an EIT might be an answer to our budget woes? I have no interest in raising taxes to pay for salaries for administrators who earn more than the Governor of the state of N.J. and who receive healthcare benefits that are well beyond the benefits tax payers who pay for these benefits receive.


    4. Flyersfan and Sidelines,
      If you look at the history of the consent agenda, it was not created for dealing with legal matters that can’t be publicly discussed. I admit I am a parliamentarian nerd from college days on student Government, and a C-Span junkie. I love watching and understanding how public meetings work. And as president of non-profit boards I have run plenty of meetings.
      No doubt the consent agenda expedites the time spent but puts considerable weight on the board of directors to be diligent in understanding the material that they’re about to vote on. At the last school board meeting I witnessed a board that was not fully prepared on the issue of outsourcing but was willing to vote on it.

      In my view, both the way we deliver information to the public and the allowance of public discussion are very important. Two perfect examples: the survival of the tennis courts and the decision to not outsource this year. The outcomes are the direct result of public input. I concede that the use of the consent agenda may be necessary, but it needs serious reform.
      I also want to be very clear that I am not asking to increase taxes, but I believe we can maintain our district’s standing without making drastic cuts. If you read Neal and Pattye’s proposal to deal with non-union aides and paraprofessionals, it offers an alternative that is financially reasonable and fair.
      Also, I am used to being in a work environment that survives on private donations. I believe public schools around the country will have to create or intensify fundraising efforts to save vital programs. We will have to create business partnerships with companies that have an interest in education. I believe we need to focus on investments that will blossom five to ten years down the line.

      1. In my view, both the way we deliver information to the public and the allowance of public discussion are very important.

        Scott, there’s a campaign issue for you that many of us could get behind — ‘consent agenda’ reform! Frankly, I would prefer to see the consent agenda abolished in TESD to avoid any possibility of abuse. There are school districts that do not use the consent agenda for that very reason, including U-CF.

      2. Scott, that is a good idea.. public private donations from companies in our district (outside too?) that are interested in nurturing the next generation of employees.. and get a deduction too. As Shining said above, there is tremendous resentment in our community that will grow with awareness of the administration and teachers employment pacts, especially when our economy is terrible and by many forecasts, will get worse. But with a private/public czar in our district, maybe solicitations can be made, and the disbursement of such funds can be public and decided upon by trustworthy folks, perhaps earmarked by the contributors themselves. Is it legal for private companies and citizens to make these kinds of donations to the school district?

      3. Dr. Foot started the consent agenda to avoid having to read every recommended action. It is meant for ROUTINE items only. The agenda is always available ahead of time. The only fault here lies with each board member….who can and should pull anything off at any time. Read the agenda and contact your board member to ask to have it withdrawn…and yes — the administration should be taken to task for hiding things there. But let’s not pretend that the administration does not WORK for the board. If the board does their job, this would not be an issue. The emphasis on secrecy lies at the foot of several sitting members, who dumped the Public Information efforts the moment that Pat Wood and Debbie Bookstaber left the board.

        1. Thanks for your questions Sidelines,

          My wife and I have been asked to join the FLITE board and committees for the last few years. My wife attended and participated on the communication committee. My daughter also participated in several FLITE activities. They are an independent fundraising foundation that support academic programs of the school district.

          My family and I have been active in the School district for almost twenty years. My daughter received a scholarship from TE Cares. My son and daughter have served on the Multi-Cultural committee of the School Board.

          Both FLITE and TE Cares have been very helpful and supportive of my family.

      4. Scott,

        You say above that we’ll have to create business partnerships with companies that have an interest in education. Could you please expand on that idea.

        The first thing that pops in my mind are pepsi and coke ads splattered all over the school walls and auditoriums. . And Nike ads in the gym encouraging kids to buy $200.00 sneakers. I fight this battle daily and I don’t want this message sent to the kids through the school system.

        Companies have an interest in making money and looking good to shareholders. Any company that says otherwise is not telling the truth.

  3. Thanks PB!!!
    I thought this right away. I hope other aides have seen through the letter and really looked at it. They made out worse!!!!!! Then to say “Enjoy the summer” is a kick in the you know what.
    The act does not start until the first of the year. Will they cut hours in September? That would not be fair. Or are they using the act to just save money?
    There is a strong buzz because of the IRS issues that the act will be pushed back a year. How does the district react if that does happen?
    My feel..they are hiding behind the act to save money on the lowest wage earners who have no union. At the same time there is a “we will show dare you question us and shame take the cut in hours. So there”!

  4. teaide dont be so sure you know the balance sheet and projections of Applebees and PJ.. You know, I am on the side of the aides here, spoke out and support them. But we are getting away from this. Guess perhaps as Pattye guides the discussion on her blog this is the direction she wants to go.

    check other districts. You say they pay for healthcare for ALL employees.. what are their taxes like vis a vis ours?
    I get the feeling some around here don’t get finances. just have employer, rich and greedy PAY UP. well in case of Applebees, there are stock holders.. maybe some of us are stockholders… maybe the administration will give back some wheels on their cadillac plan.. well theres contract law here too.. the work has just begun.

  5. Papa Johns now pays all its employees healthcare since there was a public backlash. And you only have to read about the success of Costco and how their CEO runs the business to understand that treating your employees with respect and compensating them fairly is good business. The Affordable Care Act is necessary because there are Papa John CEO’s and TE School Boards out there that feel “entitled” enough and comfortable with giving the high salary administrators an $18,000 healthcare package and giving the employees that work and guide our children all day at $13 an hour no healthcare plan at all. No other school district in Chester County or the Main Line was doing that. Creating that kind of work force allows for low morale, heavy turnover and forces more people to rely on federal tax dollars and become a burden on the system. We had a healthcare crisis and ACA is not perfect but it is a start And Europe has nothing like the affordable care act…and that is a different story all together

    1. The Chester County Intermediate Union Human Resources Dept prepared the ‘Chester County School Districts’ Support Staff Benefit Study’ in cooperation with the personnel and business administrators for all Chester County school districts. The purpose of the 2002/03 study was to “provide school boards and administrators with benefit information for support staff in the twelve school districts and the intermediate unit”. (The study did not compare the benefits of administrators or teachers). It was fascinating to read that TESD was the only school district in Chester County not offering heath insurance to their full-time employees. Many of the districts considered full-time employees those that work 25 hours or more. Understand that the study is dated 2002/03 but my assumption is that it is unlikely any of the school districts would have just dropped offering employee insurance.

      I did not know how many aides/paras/paraprofessionals worked 30 hours or more in the District but thought that the majority were part-time workers. At the District inservice day on May 21, the administration announced that 135 of the 175 aides/paras work 30 hours or more. So instead of the full-time aides/paras in the minority, it’s the other way around. That means that 77% of the aides, paras and paraprofessionals will need to have their hours cut to get below the 30 hours, for the District to avoid compliance of ACA which would necessitate health insurance coverage.

      At the time this information was presented to the aides and paras on May 21, it was offered as the reason (by Dan Waters and Sue Tiede) as to why the District would not lower their hours. They told the employees if they lowered the hours of the 135 employees under the 30 hour/wk limit, it would require the District to hire 35 additional employees to make up for the loss of required student coverage. And reiterated the resulting scheduling issues that such a plan would require. It’s interesting that what the District said that couldn’t do — is indeed what they have done with the school board vote.

      1. It will be a pyrrhic victory if “full time” aides are reduced, and part timers are hired. Who has done a cost analysis on this>? Is it cheaper to hire more part timers or just pay insurance as Neal laid out to full timers. Knowing that TE is the only district that had no insurance for some full timers is really outrageous. It shows that these women didnt care about that,took the job anyway for all the right reasons and now will be skunked by an insolent and incompetent succession of School Board directors.. Must have been under their radar. But I bet it wasnt under Tiedes.. She had to have know.

    2. I think you are mixing your emotions and good business sense. It is perfectly fine for businesses to offer healthcare, many did before 2013-14.. If it works in their business model, makes retaining of employees a fact, and builds loyalty then Im all for it..Frankly the model of employer based health insurance is unfortunate. But we are stuck with this.. The aides were not in the market for healthcare, the system was functioning that way, right or wrongly, and then you have a mandate and the whole thing explodes. The proper question is to ask what was this board and other boards thinking when they failed to PLAN for this? A private corporation’s board would probably be fired for this oversight. And yes, our board was getting away with not paying healthcare for ever, unlike other competing districts. I have stated before, it has to do with the proper allocation of revenues irrespective of EITs or special exceptions… With the pot they have, they could have done a better job of it. maybe they were smoking it.:)

    3. The administration has the same plan that the teachers negotiate. They used to have less — but when what the teachers demanded was “better” they negotiated to switch. None of them has the first clue. They don’t understand health care and PSEA runs this ship. TESD is self-insured under Kevin Mahoney’s guidance on the board..and then he left.
      >>The aides were not in the market for healthcare, the system was functioning that way, right or wrongly<<

  6. I think we agree on the board completely being unprepared. If everyone is so sure this workforce is happy with no insurance and is covered elsewhere then have the school board fulfill the aca requirement by offering the administrators plan at 100% employee paid and give all the necessary paperwork to the employees for the exchange and pay the $3000 max per aid that qualifies for the exchange. If we had a qualified legal team that verified this is acceptable practice would you and others support it?

    1. Unfortunately, the penalty is not $3000 per aide that might go to the exchange. If even one aide goes to the exchange, the district is fined $3000 for EVERY full time employee in the district. I know this sounds nuts, it did to me as well. I’ve spoken with Congressman Gerlach’s office and they verified that this is true. I hate to say it, but Art McDonnell was correct about this part. They are making the fines high because they want employers to do the right thing and offer affordable healthcare insurance to their employees.

  7. As flyersfan says, “the aides were not in the market for healthcare”. They chose a job that did not offer a high salary nor healthcare and everyone was reasonably satisfied – the employees, the students, the parents of students and the school directors. From my point of view there was no moral or ethical reason for the school board to provide benefits. No one forced these people to take the job.
    What changed? Along came big government trying to help with PPACA. The status quo, with which everyone was reasonably happy, is no longer an option. The board tried the outsourcing option, but that didn’t satisfy the employees. The board is now trying the keep-it-under-30-hours option, but that doesn’t make the employees happy. The board may consider Neal’s plan (minimal healthcare) and if it’s legal (passes the discrimination test), I see this as a good solution. The option that will cause problems is offering the standard [Cadillac] healthcare plan to the paras. The problem? You’ll have 175 employees (employees that didn’t want healthcare) and their families enrolling in TE’s healthcare plan at an incremental cost of $2M. Why? It’s a Cadillac plan at an extremely attractive price.
    Give your thanks to Obama and his big government ideas for this debacle. He made an option that was working for everyone in TE illegal.

  8. Support staff
    No no no
    Gerlach’s office is wrong! Gee woukdn’t be the first time! I cant believe how much misinformation is out there. I want the name of who told you that! If they do nothing..OFFER nothing.then they get slegehammer penalty. What McDonnel is talking about. BUT if they OFFER a plan AND it is deemed unaffordable ( more then 9.5% of income cost) AND the person QUALIFIES for the exchange it is $3000 per employee for the change tack hammer penalty. Seriously, who told you that at the office? They have a political interest for ACA failing at Gerlachs office.

    1. I read your link. I had it incorrect. I was not considering the “offering” insurance part.
      I do have to say that the woman I talked to at Jim Gerlach’s office said everyone is confused by this!
      We do have a good amount aides/paras that are young and single. Considering what they are paid per hour, it will be hard for them NOT to qualify for the exchange. I hope this can get figured out tonight.

    1. Support staff…let me give Gerlachs office benefit of the doubt and they thought you meant if you do nothing and one person goes on exchange. Then it is $2000 for every employee. BUT the option of OFFERING a plan that gets labeled “unaffordable” that comes with it a much much lessor penalty. $3000 per person who qualifies and goes on exchange. And the law is clear you pay the lessor of the two penalties.

  9. And Keith
    To “assume” it was working for “everyone”… it was working for peope who are fortunate enough to be supported by a spouse for healthcare. So you were limiting your applicants with people who could afford to take a job for love not money or you had employees who got medicaid or went without any plan at all.
    You werent being competitve in the marketplace for talent as all surrounding districts offer heathcare 25+ hrs.

    1. By definition, the job was offered without benefits and there was an abundance of applicants…so it is wrong to suggest it was not competitive. Anyone requiring benefits had all those other districts to choose from? This is not indentured service. This was a business MODEL that worked. The intent with STS was to maintain it. So what has all this accomplished?

  10. There are two options that May be available and “experts” are reviewing and i am hoping for answer tonight by the meeting. Does the “skinny plan” pass the nondiscrimination test. (Which btw has been temporarily suspended since 2010) or can we offer the administrators plan in a way that makes it not pass the affordability test at 100% employee paid and pay the tack hammer penalty which very very few people if any will qualify for.

  11. Suggest we all read this:
    Penalties for Noncompliance [discriminatory healthcare plans]

    Health plans that do not comply with the new requirements may face excise taxes of $100 per day for each employee whose benefits are not in compliance capped at 10 percent of the cost of the group health plan or $500,000, whichever is less.”
    That’s $17,500 per day for plans that are offered to employees (paras) that are inferior to those offered to high wage earners (administrators). Inferior means less comprehensive coverage, higher deductibles, higher copays or higher employee contribution requirement.
    Thus, Joanne’s idea of offering the same plan with 100% paid by the employee is most likely discriminatory.

  12. Keith,
    You may have something there and I was questioning that too. In order for it not to be discriminatory do you have to have the same employer contribution? That’s important to know I realize. I see that in your email but not sure i read that in your link. The benefits offered are the same just the contribution is different. Not saying you are wrong. Can you point out where you see that in your link I did read it fast and am running out the door. I don’t see that here..

    “Under the new nondiscrimination rules, fully insured group health plans need to, generally, meet two requirements. First, a health plan cannot discriminate in favor of highly compensated individuals as to eligibility to participate; meaning a plan must, generally, demonstrate that it benefits at least 70 percent of all employees. Second, a plan cannot discriminate in favor of participants who are highly compensated individuals as to benefits that are provided; meaning that all benefits made available to highly compensated individuals must be made available to all other plan participants and their dependents. Different levels of benefits such as co-pays, deductibles, and/or provider networks cannot be offered to highly compensated participants if those same levels of benefits are not offered to all other participants.”

    1. Let’s try that again –

      Here is the quote about employee contributions from the article I referenced.
      “When a school district offers different benefits to different groups of employees, this often raises a red flag that the plan design may be discriminatory. One of these groups inevitably receives benefits on more favorable terms. For example, one package may have more comprehensive coverage, lower deductibles, or lower copays. Alternatively, the groups may receive the same package, but maybe one group has a lower employee contribution requirement.

  13. The nondiscrimination test is the key to both plans however keep in mind it has been placed on temporary hold since 2010 because there are so many undefined rules and regulations it is not being enforced. According to this report they recommend the following

    “Therefore, until the IRS provides more information about the rules governing nondiscrimination in insured plans, we do not encourage employers to spend resources to conduct testing under current nondiscrimination rules at this time. Instead, employers may wish to evaluate their benefits in regard to the other ACA provisions for which rules have already been supplied, such as the definition of (and safe harbors relating to) “full-time employees,” and employer shared responsibility (also known as the “pay or play mandate”).”

    for the full report

  14. Joanne,
    I have seen that the IRS discrimination rules have been put on hold since 2010, but it would be bad for the district to institute a solution to the “para” situation that would be only temporary.
    If there are no discrimination rules then either your idea (employee pays 100% of premium) or Neal’s “skinny” idea (minimum essential coverage at a minimally affordable price) would work.

  15. Ultimately, the solution could involve reigning in the high end plans. The discriminatory penalty is not accessed on the “essential coverage” plans but by the higher end plans: “a plan cannot discriminate in favor of participants who are highly compensated individuals as to benefits that are provided”. Offering the essentials to an employee group creates the disparity (maybe) but the PENALTY is related to the other end of the spectrum.

    Important distinction…for me at least.

  16. The “high end” plan is contractual…with the PSEA having bargained it for our teachers. I believe Mr. Obama’s plan excludes unions? Is that still true?

        1. No, the FTE count for penalties does not make any distinction for “bargaining unit” employees. The PPACA document is about 1,000 pages and is not internally consistent.

          1. What I was referring to was the ‘discrimination test’ for school districts under the Affordable Care Act. Certainly the Federal Law requires compliance whether a member of a union or not. Under the ACA, it states that plans must not discriminate in favor of higher compensated individuals and the benefits provided under the plan can not discriminate in favor of those who are highly compensated. However, union employees are specifically excluded from this provision. In other words, the discrimination test for any health insurance plan for the aides and paras is against the TESD administrator health insurance plan, not union health insurance plans (TEEA, TENIG). My comment referred to the discrimination test — the standard is applied to the insurance plan of the nonunion group (administrators) only.

        1. What I was referring to was the ‘discrimination test’ for school districts under the Affordable Care Act. Certainly the Federal Law requires compliance whether a member of a union or not. Under the ACA, it states that plans must not discriminate in favor of higher compensated individuals and the benefits provided under the plan can not discriminate in favor of those who are highly compensated. However, union employees are specifically excluded from this provision. In other words, the discrimination test for any health insurance plan for the aides and paras is against the TESD administrator health insurance plan, not union health insurance plans (TEEA, TENIG). My comment referred to the discrimination test — the standard is applied to the insurance plan of the nonunion group (administrators) only.

        2. More simply stated, there is no discrimination when something is collectively bargained for. I would be very careful about the validity of the information dispensed here.

          Pattye is saying that the aides and para-educators must get the same plan as administrators. Pattye was claiming the opposite not too long ago.

          1. Pattye is saying that the aides and para-educators must get the same plan as administrators. Pattye was claiming the opposite not too long ago.

            I am not saying that the aides and paras have to have the same insurance plan as the administrators now nor did I ever say that they had to have the same plan. The claim is that unless the aides and paras are offered the same plan as the administrators it will not pass the non-discrimination test; and that to offer a lesser ‘skinny plan’ would incur a penalty to the District. Under the ACA, if you are self-insured there are no such penalties and TESD is self-insured. But beyond the fact that there is no penalty to the District because it has a self-insured plan – the ‘discrimination test’ of the Affordable Care Act is on hold through 2014.

  17. All district may be headed toward a cafeteria plan where the employer contributes a set amount (say $3K) toward benefits (healthcare, vision, life insurance, dental, retirement) with the employee making up the remainder.

    1. For the record, the Administrators had that…with some tweaks for those who did not require the benefits (it went into a 457f I think). The goal then was to move the teachers towards that, as the users would see it as “their money” instead of “their benefits.” Instead, the teachers continued to insist on negotiating co-pays, not costs. They have NO deductible per se. And when the plan the teachers had was costing several thousand more than the plan allowance the admins had, some board members (who presumably didn’t understand the history) allowed the admins to switch to the teacher plan. Every district should be negotiating the district contribution, not the employee contribution. The PSEA should be negotiating the plan with the health care providers. I don’t know a single company that does anything but offer several plans at different costs. The company underwrites some of it, but the employee decides how much they want to spend. But here again, you have to elect board members who understand this stuff….or are willing to learn and not wait for the administration to “put something in their packet.”

  18. Neal and Keith
    Most legal experts agree that the nondiscrimination test is not going to be enforceable at all for 2014. I am working with senior counsel at an advocacy firm to see if I can get something in writing for us. Also you can find on line that the National School Board Association lawyers have put in a “request” to the IRS that schools be exempt

    In terms of this being a temporary solution I agree it is. But I am learning that the plans that the teachers and administrators have are going to be short lived too because in 2017 the cadillac tax comes into play so they will need to adjust their plans before then. Maybe at some point everyone meets at the middle and has a fair and equitable benefits package.

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