The Spencer City Council is considering whether or not to offer health benefits to part-time city employees.
"It is not a matter of keeping costs down," City Manager Bob Fagen said. "It's an additional cost that has not been budgeted and would have a dramatic effect on our system if we had to pay those benefits."
Employees who work 30 hours a week wouldn't be eligible for benefits. However, there is an option to receive health benefits at a higher cost to the employee. The coverage is different and there is a higher deductible.
There is one city employee who takes advantage of this option currently, according to Fagen.
"The cost of paying for benefits would be more than what some employees get paid," Fagen said.
To cover health benefits for an employee, the city would pay around $18,000. With this option, the employee still pays a portion of their premium. According to Fagen, the cost is getting closer to $20,000.
"Any employee that works an average of 30 hours a week or more will have the same health care opportunities as full-time," Fagen said.
Spencer has become aware of the regulations of the Affordable Healthcare Act "as it pertains to part-time workers." According to the act, any employee that works an average of 30 hours a week or more would be eligible for full time benefits.
The Affordable Healthcare Act, which President Barack Obama has been pushing for since his first term in office, would require employers to provide healthcare to those who work 30 hours or more a week by 2014. If benefits aren't provided the employer could receive a penalty of $2,000 per employee.
If the council decides to not provide benefits to part-time employees, they would also approve the hiring of full-time employees.
"No employee can be hired for more than 1,500 hours. They would have to have council approval," Fagen said.
The discussion regarding city and employee healthcare is still new. More will be known on the subject in early February after Bob Fagen, City Clerk Theresa Reardon and Deputy City Manager/Finance Officer Brian Weuve attend a learning session.
The council won't vote on the issue until early March, according to Fagen.