City searches for solution to health care mandate - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

City searches for solution to health care mandate

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SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KTIV) -

Part-time employees who work for the city of Sioux City are starting to learn what will happen to them when the Affordable Health Care Act takes effect.

By 2014, large employers, including municipalities, will have to offer a health care plan to workers who clock in for more than 29 hours.

Sioux City is feeling the pressure to come up with a plan that protects taxpayers and its employees.  However, they think they're close to a solution.         

"These employees are people," John Hamm, President of the Northwest Iowa Labor Council pleaded with city leaders.

At Monday night's city council meeting, he urged them not to cut the hours of it's part-time employees to avoid paying for health care coverage.

"These people are not going to stay around," he said.

"If they go, you've got to retrain them, and that's going to cost money," added council member Rhonda Capron.

Councilman John Fitch called it a lose-lose situation.

"It's not a situation that we created or that we like, or that I like, anyway.  It got shoved down our throat," said Fitch.

Sioux City officials estimate it would cost more than two million dollars to extend health care coverage to all of its employees.

"We can't afford to do that," Fitch pointed out.

However, if they don't they'll pay a fine: $2,000 per employee, for a total of $1.6 million.

"That's why we're proceeding very cautiously and erring on the side of reducing hours, knowing we can always add hours back," explained Finance Dir. Bob Padmore.

The city's bus drivers learned Monday that the premium they pay for their health care will be accepted under the federal guidelines.  So, their 35 hour work week won't change.  Many of those workers got up and thanked the council, including Rick Stewart.

"This is kind of a pleasant surprise," he said.

Now, the city's working on a case by case basis to figure out the future of it's other part-time employees.

"We may have solutions for the other employees in terms of finding health care options for those other employees," City Manager Paul Eckert suggested.

Those options will be discussed in detail during Saturday's budget hearing.  It starts at 8:30 Saturday morning at City Hall.

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