The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Health care act is affecting some part-time workers
Gov. Bob McDonnell this month ordered the heads of certain state agencies to ride herd on the hours of some of their part-timers.
The governor told the agencies to cap the hours of these workers at 29 per week on average for the year. The order went into effect immediately.
The directive is the result of a provision in the Affordable Care Act, which says that if a worker averages 30 hours or more per week for the year, he or she is considered full time and must be offered health coverage. Both public sector and private sector employees are affected.
The federal health care act went into effect in 2010, though several major provisions don’t start until January 2014. Employers are preparing now.
“They’re changing the definition of full time from what you and I normally consider,” said Sara Wilson, director of the Virginia Department of Human Resource Management.
“They’re redefining it to 30 hours a week for health care purposes only,” she said.
Until now, the federal government has generally defined full time as 40 hours a week or more. Employers were free to offer health coverage to those who worked fewer than 40 hours, and many drew the full-time/part-time line at 32 to 36 hours.
In state government, those who average 32 hours a week or more are offered health insurance.
Beginning in January, employers will be expected to look back to all or part of 2013 and see which of their workers met the new definition of full-time work and offer health insurance to those who did.
The change won’t affect the state’s salaried part-time workers, who either get health insurance now or will be offered it, Wilson said.
However, it does affect “temporary” part-time workers, those who help out during peak workloads. There are up to 10,000 of these workers, Wilson said.
Rather than extend coverage to them, McDonnell and other state officials decided to cap their hours.
“We didn’t have $110 million in the budget,” Wilson said, referring to the estimated cost of adding these workers and their dependents to the state’s health plans.
For many workers, including about 1,500 people in the Virginia Community College System, this means a loss of hours and income.
The community colleges were harder hit than any other state agency. About 150 part-time workers at Germanna Community College are affected.
“No one in that group will be able to work more than 29 hours a week,” said Jeffrey Kraus, assistant vice chancellor for public relations for the community colleges.
At the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Fredericksburg District office, the new directive affects 25 people, out of a total of 450 employees, said Kelly Hannon, spokeswoman.
“It’s a small portion of our workforce,” Hannon said.
The University of Mary Washington has 149 part-time workers, but only about six of them are affected, said Rick Pearce, vice president for administration and finance.
“They’re an integral part of our workforce. We’d be in trouble without them,” Pearce said.
CHANGING COVERAGE: This story is part of an occasional series about the 2010 Affordable Care Act and the reforms under way.
Jim Hall: 540/374-5433