Last updated: October 24. 2013 9:41AM - 1899 Views
By - mguydish@civitasmedia.com

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EDWARDSVILLE — Looming deadlines regarding insurance coverage for 30-hour employees under the Affordable Care Act — a mandate that could cost districts tens of thousands of dollars if mishandled — dominated the monthly meeting of the Northeast Pennsylvania School District Health Trust on Wednesday.

But a heated debate about the legal representative of Lake-Lehman School District on the board took center stage at the end of the two-hour session.

Jonathan Sapochak, consulting actuary for Conrad Siegel — the firm contracted by the trust to help run the insurance program for member districts in the consortium — told the board districts need to act soon on the legal mandate to offer insurance to employees who work 30 hours or more a week.

Sapochak said the mandate takes effect January 2015, but employers need to conduct a 12-month “measurement period” to measure actual time of such “variable hour” employees, followed by a two-month “administrative period” to use that data in meeting the mandate.

If district does not offer coverage to at least 95 percent of employees working 30 hours or more, it faces a $2,000 fine per employee excluding the first 30 employees, a fine that could approach $100,000 or more for Luzerne County’s largest districts.

Sapochak said Conrad Siegel recommends that, if doubt, offer insurance coverage with the employee paying the full premium. The mandate is to offer coverage, not pay for it. A second mandate requires coverage be “affordable” and “reasonable” based on employee costs, but that fine — $3,000 — is only for the employee in question and not multiplied by all employees, Sapochak said.

The board agreed to set up an informational meeting for district personnel on Nov. 13.

Near the end of the meeting, Hanover Area District Business Manager Tom Cipriano made a motion on the use of some $7 million held in reserve as a lawsuit with two former member districts works through courts. If the trust prevails, Cipriano said, the money should be divvied among member districts as credits toward insurance premiums.

Retiring Wyoming Area Superintendent Ray Bernardi then questioned the presence of Walter Glogowski as Lake-Lehman representative. Glogowski, a retired educator and union activist, and current school board member, has represented Lake-Lehman for years, but Bernardi noted Tracy Halowich represented the district at the annul trust reorganization meeting two months ago.

The trust is composed of representatives from labor and management in each district, and the two sides separate and caucus privately at the reorganization to each elect a co-chair. The co-chairs then run the meetings. Bernardi was management co-chair last year but was replaced by Northwest Area Superintendent Ronald Grevera.

Labor co-chair Philip Russo, a retired Wyoming Area teacher, tried to cut off debate with a voice vote after a motion was made to table Cipriano’s proposal so the solicitor’s could review it. Glogowski rose to find paperwork he said proved he was appointed by Lake-Lehman as management representative. Cipriano pushed for a roll call vote. Others started speaking at once and a din developed, ending when Grevera asked for a roll call vote that tabled Cipriano’s motion.

But the vote split largely along labor/management lines, again showing a recurring rift.

“We’re going to start moving to table all resolutions so the lawyers can look at it,” Bernardi quipped after the meeting adjourned.

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