Healthcare costs rankle NA board

    Major healthcare changes are now in effect for the North Adams Community School district. Decisions surrounding the cost and availability of healthcare coverage were made at the Tuesday night's board of education meeting.
    Because of requirements contained in the federal Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, the school corporation will be required to pay at least $4,000 annually in additional insurance costs to even out the amount paid on premiums. According to Superintendent Brent Lehman, in the past healthcare premiums paid by the school district for employees were paid based on several factors, not just their classification group. Now each employee of a specific group must receive the same benefits. For example, Lehman explained, each cafeteria worker, despite their length of tenure and position, will receive the same insurance premium. The cost is expected to total approximately $4,000 if no employee changes their current plans.
    The implications may seem minimal, but many factors are unknown, Lehman said. It was unclear to the board how many individual insurance holders will now add their spouses or get new insurance policies. Previously the district offered healthcare insurance  to anyone who wanted it. The school district did not pay any premium for those who worked part time, but it was available.
    As a result of changes required by the Affordable Care Act, the school has eliminated the availability of health insurance for those who work less than 30 hours a week.
    Lehman explained that because of a provision known as "Spousal Carve Out," many employees were forced to leave North Adams Community Schools to stay on their spouse’s healthcare. “They now have the Obama-exchange,” Lehman said. It isn’t the best option but it is the only option.    “They are forcing our hand.” The new policy will affect approximately a half-dozen employees.
    “We will not leave them without our help. We will do everything we can to help them find a different insurance carrier,” the superintendent said.