A bill introduced Wednesday in the state Senate could ease concerns from school districts that retirees won’t take temporary jobs if it means losing their state health coverage benefits.
Senate Bill 6 would allow retirees who return to work for the state in temporary positions to retain their coverage options under the state health plan rather than limiting them to a new high-deductible health plan. In particular for school systems, this would cover people such as retirees who come back to work as teachers, principals, interim superintendents and other administrative positions.
The bill’s primary sponsors are Sen. Jerry Tillman, the Republican Majority Whip from Archdale; and Sen. Chad Barefoot, a Republican from Wake Forest.
Under a provision in the federal Affordable Care Act, large employers are subject to fines if they don’t provide qualified health coverage to employees reasonably expected to work more than 30 hours a week. This category includes retirees that school systems often rely on to fill temporary vacancies.
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In response, the General Assembly established the high-deductible health plan to cover people such as the returning retirees that is less generous than their old coverage. While retirees aren’t required to sign up for the new high-deductible health plan, they wouldn’t be able to access their retiree health coverage while they’re employed.
School districts lobbied for a change in state legislation as they complained about how they’d be impacted. For instance, Wake County has reduced the hours for interim principals to try to help them keep their retiree coverage.
“Rehired retirees are an essential talent pool for school districts facing staffing needs,” the N.C. School Boards Association said in an issue brief asking for a change in state legislation. “But retirees faced with the prospect of losing their retiree health coverage during their employment will think twice about taking a temporary position in a public school.”
The General Assembly’s Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee agreed with the concerns, saying in a January report that “many retired rehirees working in the public schools are leaving these positions or refusing to take new long-term assignments.”