Health care law a bitter pill for Lisbon

LISBON – Obamacare may result in the loss of hours for the village’s part-time employees and make it difficult to find additional lifeguards to work at the community pool this summer.

These were just some of the issues raised at this week’s Village Council meeting after Councilman Steve Defilippo pointed out the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, more commonly referred to as Obamacare, mandates employers provide health care coverage to employees working at least 30 hours per week.

“Because of the Obama law that’s coming out … we want to make all our part-time jobs 29 hours or less,” unless they take their spouse’s health insurance, he said.

The insurance requirement applies to all employers, private and public, with 50 or more full-time workers, and Lisbon has 22 full-time village employees and at least that many part-time and seasonal workers. Village Fiscal Officer Tracey Wonner said that under Obamacare, the insurance requirement applies because the combined hours worked by the part-time workers would give the village the equivalent of 50-plus full-time employees.

Officials indicated they may have to reduce the hours of those part-time workers whose hours currently exceed 30 hours, unless they sign a form saying they will remain on their spouse’s health insurance.

Defilippo said the personnel committee was also recommending against putting on a new full-time worker in the street department, as had been recommended by street Foreman Jim Oliver, and keep the seasonal employee on part-time instead but reduce his weekly hours to 29.

Councilman Joe Morenz said he researched the law and came across a section that says part-time workers can work less than 30 hours a week on average per month before the insurance requirement applies.

“The flexibility would be helpful,” Defilippo said.

Morenz is chairman of the parks committee and he is concerned about finding additional college and high school students certified to work as lifeguards this season at the Sadie Van Fossan pool. The seven lifeguards employed last summer worked 35 hours per week, and reducing their hours to 29 will mean he needs at least another two to three lifeguards to fill all of the shifts.

“Everyone’s going to have the same problem finding lifeguards because of this,” noted Councilwoman Mary Ann Gray.

The new law will also impact police Chief Mike Abraham, who remains short a full-time officer because council wants him to fill the position by obtaining a federal COPS grant. This has forced him to increasing rely on a pool of part-time officers to fill the open shifts, but Obamacare will require he find even more if forced to restrict their hours to 29.

“That will have a big impact for my office depending on how it runs,” he said of the new law.

Later in the meeting, council hired David Beeson of Salem as a part-time police officer, the third part-time officer added to the roster in recent weeks.

One of the village employee’s affected by the new law is Alisa Gostey, the mayor’s secretary, who was hired in November to work 30 hours per week. Gostey, who has insurance through her husband, will sign a form turning down village insurance so she can continue to work at 30 hours per week.

Village Solicitor Virginia Barborak said she can see lawsuits resulting from the practice of telling employees their hours will be cut unless they sign a waiver to remain on their spouses’ insurance.