Will Teachers Like Obamacare?
As a school board member for the Fort Bend Independent School District, the seventh largest district in Texas, I have listened for months as our chief financial officer discussed the impact that the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a., Obamacare, will have on our budget. As most thinking people would predict, it will be a disaster. The negative impact on the quality of education that every school district will face will be huge. Although cowardly and political, the decision to delay the employer mandate will spare our budget for this year. Prior to the delay of the employer mandate, cost estimates to the district budget as a result of Obamacare were approximately $4 million /year. These figures are additional costs to our school district alone, and are the result of compliance costs, penalties, fees, increased cost of insuring substitute teachers and other employees, and additional coverage mandated under Obamacare. Within the State of Texas, approximately 1250 independent school districts and public charter school districts would be affected, potentially requiring the state to inject more money into the system.
As a result of the requirement to provide health insurance to temporary workers working more than 30 hours per week, most school districts, unable to absorb increased costs, would likely limit the hours for these employees. For example, if a regular teacher is absent for an extended period, a school district would normally hire a long term substitute. Due to increased costs, however, a district would limit a long term substitute to no more than 30 hours per week or 3 days. A district would then have to hire another substitute for the remaining two days. Students would therefore have more than one substitute teacher during the week, hardly a model of continuity in education.
The individual mandate will also inflict pain on school district budgets. One of the main concerns is the requirement that deductibles and co-pays will now satisfy out-of-pocket maximums, thereby allowing an employee to reach their maximum more quickly than under the pre-Obamacare plan. At first glance an employee may view this favorably. However, the end result is that the school district will spend more on healthcare. And as thinking people understand, nothing is free and school districts, unlike our federal treasury, cannot print money.
So when healthcare costs for a school district rise, who pays? For most districts, salaries and benefits account for the majority of the operational budget. In our case, these costs are approximately 86% of the entire budget, leaving only 14% for instructional materials, technology, transportation, training, and general operations (electricity, water, etc.). The increased healthcare costs must therefore come either from reducing expenses from the 14% category, increasing deductibles and premiums, reducing reimbursement percentages, reducing teacher salaries, eliminating raises, or even eliminating teaching positions. Perhaps the money could come from increased property taxes. Of course, tax increases are the real "common core" of Obamacare.
Wherever the money comes from, the negative effect on education will be evident. I wonder if teachers and their unions who supported this president or his signature "accomplishment" have ever thought it through? I wonder how these teachers and their unions will feel when school districts across this country are forced to pass these healthcare cost increases, mandated by their votes, back to them? And I wonder how new education graduates, who will be unemployed as a result of the financial burdens caused by Obamacare, will feel after 4 to 5 years of college with no job to show for it?
Dave Rosenthal is an elected member of the Fort Bend Independent School District Board of Trustees and his opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the school board, other individual board members, or the FBISD.