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Pressure off county in complying with health care overhaul — for now

Thursday, July 4, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

Westmoreland County officials said Wednesday they welcome the additional time granted this week to comply with the federal health care law that was to be implemented next year.

On Tuesday, President Obama announced a one-year delay in requiring large employers to comply with the Affordable Health Care law.

Westmoreland County, with its 2,000 workers, started work this week to comply by Jan. 1, 2014.

“We're going to continue, but the urgency isn't as urgent as it was,” Commissioner Charles Anderson said.

The changes are expected to immediately cost the county about $340,000, Anderson said.

Officials have started looking at records relating to the county's roster of more than 250 part-time workers.

Under the health care law, workers who are on the job for 30 hours a week or more are considered full-time employees who would qualify for health care benefits.

During a two-week pay period that ended June 15, 137 employees classified as part-timers exceeded the 30-hour-a-week threshold, according to payroll records obtained from the controller's office.

The county's part-time workers receive no health insurance benefits.

Part-time workers are routinely used to staff vacant positions or to cover for vacations and sick leave at the prison, the Westmoreland Manor nursing home, the sheriff's department and within the park police.

Commissioners said they wanted to trim part-time hours, with formal action being considered as early as July 11.

Plans could include reducing the hours some part-timers work, hiring more part-time employees or converting some of those staffers to full-time status.

“It's a balancing act. Our department heads are aware of the situation, and they've been told to study their departments,” Anderson said.

With the one-year delay, Westmoreland officials have more time to review the situation.

“We need to comply with the law, and we are going to comply with the law,” Commissioner Ted Kopas said.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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