Brevard cuts some workers' part-time hours to avoid Obamacare rules

37 of Brevard County Library employees have had hours cut

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Jeff Thompson, shown at the Central Brevard Public Library and Reference Center in Cocoa, is the director of Brevard County Library Services.

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. - Some part-time Brevard County workers are getting their hours cut so the county would not be forced by federal law to pay for their health insurance.

Local 6 News partner Florida Today reports the affected workers currently do not get county-provided health insurance. But they would in 2015 — if they worked an average of at least 30 hours a week — under a provision of federal health care reform commonly known as "Obamacare."

Brevard County human resources officials recently informed county department heads about the new rules and the potential impact on their budgets, and department heads are formulating responses.

Brevard County Insurance Director Jerry Visco said every employee added to the county's health insurance program could cost the county about $10,000 a year, and "that money is not there" in the county budget.

A spot check of a recent payroll week showed that 138 of the county's 342 part-time employees worked at least 30 hours that week, according to Brevard County Personnel Manager Karen Conde.

Using, Visco's estimate, providing health insurance to 138 part-time workers would cost the county $1.38 million a year.

Brevard County Library Service Department Director Jeff Thompson said 37 of his department's employees have had their hours cut as a result of the health care issue.

"Obviously, what I'm hearing is that people are unhappy," Thompson said. "They naturally were very concerned. It is regrettable."

Thompson said he tried to minimize the impact of the staff cuts by reducing the hours of affected workers to 28 hours a week, rather than the suggested 25.

In a memo to part-time library staff, Thompson wrote: "Due to recent changes in the definition of part-time work, part-time employees working for Brevard County must work no more than 25 hours per week. However, in an attempt to limit the adverse impact of this reduction on you, all part-time staff members who are currently working in positions that are 29 hours per week or more will be reduced to 28 hours per week. Only vacant part-time positions will be lowered to 25 hours per week or less."

Thompson said he is reworking staff schedules so that the changes do not affect library hours or services.

Visco said federal regulations released earlier this year in conjunction with the health care reform defined full-time employees as those working an average of at least 30 hours a week.

Initially, employers with at least 50 full-time employees were required to provide them with health insurance as of January 2014. But, earlier this month, implementation of that provision of health care reform was delayed until January 2015.

In order to comply with the 2015 implementation date, the county plans to monitor and report to the federal government the hours of part-time employees from Oct. 1, 2013, to Oct. 1, 2014, Visco said.

Visco said 25 hours a week or less is a "good target" for part-time employees, so departments avoid exceeding the 30-hour-a-week threshold in case there is a staffing issue that forces part-timers to work more hours than expected.

But he said there has been no formal directive issued to county department heads, and department managers will determine how to deal with their scheduling challenges for part-timers.

Visco said the change in hours for part-time county employees is an unintended consequence of federal health care reform.

Brevard County's "part-time employees have never been eligible for benefits," Visco said.

Conde said the county has 1,986 full-time and 342 part-time employees. Most of the part-timers work either in library services (137) or parks and recreation (78).

Those figures do not include the departments run by the elected charter officers, such as the sheriff, clerk of courts and property appraiser, who will set their own policies on how to schedule part-timers in their departments.

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