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Mel Gravely

How Will the Affordable Care Act Affect Head Start Programs?

ACAThe Columbus Dispatch published an editorial yesterday titled “Health Start Has a Health Worry.” In the editorial, the author claims that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will increase costs for a variety of government-funded programs for low-income families (Head Start among them), ultimately leading to layoffs. Despite the obvious political agenda of the editorial itself, the rising costs of providing health insurance to staff members is a top concern for Head Start agencies. This is especially true when coupled with the 5% reduction in Head Start funding under sequestration.

The editorial’s author cites one specific mandate of the ACA as the culprit: that businesses and organizations must offer health insurance to all full-time employees, defined as those who work over 30 hours a week. You may have heard about this mandate in the news when some vocal franchisees of Papa John’s pizza announced an Obamacare surcharge on their pizza. This prompted the founder and CEO of Papa Johns to engage in a public relations effort to clarify where Papa John’s stands on the issue.

Either way, Head Start agencies are correct to be concerned about how this will impact them. We encourage all Head Start agencies to consult with an expert on the matter. In the meantime, we found a few details about the ACA worth noting:

1. The mandate only applies to “large applicable employers,” defined as those with 50 or more full-time employees.
2. Part-time employee hours are included in the calculation of the number of full-time employees.
3. The federal government defines full-time as more than 30 hours per week.
4. Applicable employers are required to provide “minimum essential coverage.” See here for a definition.

The National Restaurant Association is one of the organizations that is highly concerned with the impacts of the ACA. They’ve put together an easy-to-understand tutorial and calculator to determine a company’s responsibilities under the ACA.

Has your Head Start agency researched how the Affordable Care Act will affect you? Leave your comments below!

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