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Obamacare actually hurts Indiana families it was supposed to help

Thursday, June 20, 2013 - 12:01 am

Summer break gives educators a much-needed rest to prepare for another busy semester.

Unfortunately, the summer won’t be as pleasant for hundreds of Hoosier part-time workers such as teachers, cafeteria workers, bus drivers and coaches, who will have fewer hours and smaller paychecks because of the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.

In an unprecedented exercise of federal power, Obamacare mandates that, beginning next year, employers with 50 or more full-time employees must offer health insurance to employees who work at least 30 hours a week. The IRS, freshly equipped with an army of new tax collectors, will levy stiff penalties on employers who are unable to comply.

In January, the Obama administration proposed a rule to prevent schools from taking summer break and other holidays into account when they calculate their employees’ weekly hours. As a result, many schools have seen their employee averages soar well above the law’s 30-hour threshold and are in effect penalized for employing part-time workers.

The largest school district in Indiana, Fort Wayne Community Schools, has calculated that it would either face $10 million of added compliance costs or pay $8 million in fines to the IRS. Unable to meet either of these impossible burdens, the district has been forced to cut the hours of more than 600 part-time cafeteria workers and teacher aides.

Fort Wayne isn’t alone. The Shelbyville Central School System is cutting the hours of substitute teachers, bus drivers and athletic coaches, and the Lafayette School Corporation is cutting workers in more than 150 schools.

Zionsville Community Schools is facing the inevitability of having to make similar cuts. For families already struggling to make ends meet, this couldn’t have come at a worse time.

This administration sold Obamacare as a benefit to hardworking, middle-class Hoosiers, but it’s hurting the very families it was designed to help. Americans are already struggling through an economy increasingly reliant on part-time work, with more than 9.9 million workers in jobs that only provide 30-34 hours a week. By cutting hours for part-time educators, Obamacare only adds to the hardships families feel as they try to get ahead.

Teresa Meredith, the president-elect of the Indiana State Teachers Association, rightly noted: “For some of them, it’s an extra job. But for many of them, they’re single parents or it’s a second income that they have to have to make payments on houses and pay their bills and feed their kids.”

The last thing Washington needs to do is make life more difficult for these hardworking Hoosiers, yet that’s exactly what this law is doing. While teachers’ families will feel the immediate loss of income, students will suffer the long-term consequences.

Parents, teachers and administrators from across the political spectrum agree that our schools’ primary focus must be educating our children — not navigating the unintended consequences of Washington’s rules.

Substitute teachers, cafeteria staff and coaches devote their careers to changing lives and expanding opportunities for the next generation, but Obamacare is forcing schools to focus on compliance instead of student achievement.

Hoosiers don’t need more red tape and top-down mandates. We need real patient-centered solutions that don’t cripple schools with impossible burdens. Our students deserve the tools they need to succeed, and that isn’t possible when Washington puts regulations ahead of achievement.

Let’s repeal Obamacare and let educators focus on what’s really important — our kids.

Marlin Stutzman represents Indiana’s 3rd congressional district. This column first appeared in The Indianapolis Star.