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Health law could cost Pasco district $573,000

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LAND O’LAKES -

With budget discussions on the horizon, the Pasco County School Board is trying to determine the financial impact it faces from the federal health care act, commonly referred to as Obamacare.

The tentative answer: at least $573,000 a year beginning in 2014.

That number comes with plenty of caveats, though, because new information is streaming out of Washington, D.C., on a regular basis.

“Almost every day the federal government is publishing new rules — some interim, some final, some subject to discussion,” Kathy Gordon of Siver Insurance Consultants told the school board at a Tuesday workshop.

Also, it’s unclear how some aspects of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act could affect the district, and additional costs are possible, Gordon said.

Among other things, the law requires employers with more than 50 workers to provide health insurance for their employees. Employers face a penalty of $2,000 per employee if they don’t comply.

The Pasco school district’s penalty would be $15.2 million.

The district pays about $6,000 per employee to provide health insurance, which led to a few light-hearted comments at the workshop about whether it would be better to drop health insurance and pay the penalty.

Superintendent Kurt Browning said after the meeting that’s not going to happen. “We can’t think about not providing health insurance to our employees,” he said.

Even if the school board did consider such a move, health insurance is included in the district’s contract with United School Employees of Pasco and dropping the benefit would be subject to negotiations.

Browning, though, said the district does need to figure out how the costs associated with the health care act are going to affect the bottom line as the school board plans its fiscal 2014 budget. The extra costs the district faces are related to fees included in the act.

One such fee is the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Fee, the first payment of which is due in June, Gordon said. That fee is $1 per insured person this year, and comes to $8,815 for the school district, based on 7,623 insured employees and 1,192 insured dependents.

In 2014, the fee doubles to $2 per person per year and the school district will owe $17,630.

Also in 2014, a reinsurance fee goes into effect for employers. The fee is $63 per insured person per year. The total for the school district is estimated at $555,345.

Money collected from the reinsurance fee is to help stabilize the cost of insurance premiums in the individual market during the first three years that insurance exchanges are being set up in each state.

The exchanges are supposed to help people without health insurance find affordable coverage.

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