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April 10, 2013

Riley: fed health care laws will hit budget

By JUDY SHERIDAN

Little by little, Parker County officials are learning more about the effects of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, referred to often as Obamacare.

In regular session Monday, Judge Mark Riley talked to county commissioners about two ways the Act, which he called federalized health care, could impact the county budget.

The judge also talked about avoiding some of the impact by cutting hours for the county’s part-time employees.

One of the new Act’s provisions, Riley told the court, mandates that affected businesses offer health insurance to employees who work 30 hours per week or more, something the county doesn’t have to do now.

The county has 38 part-time employees, he said; some working on a seasonal basis.

“Tarrant County is going to do this — in most cases, I believe — and reduce those hours,” he said, “maybe bring in more part-time people.

The impact is going to be that someone’s paycheck is going to be affected. You might cut someone to 25 hours, and bring someone else in for 15.”

Riley said commissioners will meet in the next 30 days to set policies.

“Then, we’re going to have to be hard when it comes to the budget,” he said.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Craig Peacock asked if the changes would be in effect this summer.

“Yes,” Riley said, “by July we have to have that policy developed and start controlling hours because next [calendar] year what we do will be audited.”

The judge also told commissioners about the compliance cost of $65 per insured person that affected businesses are required to pay. The “tax” amounts to $52,000 for Parker County, he said, which has 800 employees and family members enrolled in health care plans.

“That’s just to sit down at the table and play,” he said. “It has nothing to do with your actual health care coverage.”

“Everybody often wonders where the money is going to come from to pay for the uninsured and uninsurable,” he said, “this is where it starts.”

Riley said the new costs will affect employee premiums.

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