Part-time workers may be a solution for LTC providers, experts say

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Affordable Care Act requirements related to health insurance are leading some long-term care providers to hire more part-time employees, experts said Wednesday.

“The trend is having larger PRN staff to reduce exposure,” said OnShift CEO Mark Woodka during a McKnight's webcast Wednesday.

Starting Jan.1, employers with more than 50 employees need to start offering affordable health insurance to full-time employees, or pay a penalty. The question “What is a full-time worker?” has historically been a difficult one, according to webcast featured speaker Janet K. Feldkamp, of Benesch Friedlander Coplan & Aronoff. In the case of the ACA, it means employees who work more than 30 hours a week or 130 hours a month. Otherwise, employers will face a penalty of $2,000 per employee. Additionally, “affordable” is defined as health insurance where the premium can't be more than 9.5% of an employee's wage.

In order to keep staffing at appropriate levels, providers must be able to identify how many hours employees are working, webcast speakers emphasized. Additionally, operators should use caution when considering the buildings under an umbrella organization, as it's believed entities may be aggregated even if they are limited liability corporations.

“There's a lot of fear and concern,” Woodka said. “You have to get your costs in line.”

One option being explored by some providers is to hire support staff with CNA licenses. “We're seeing [part time workers] in non direct-care roles, such as laundry,” Woodka said. “A few providers have hired a ‘universal worker,' such as a CNA who can float.

“That way if there is a callout, you have someone with a CNA license who can be swapped in off of dietary for the day,” he explained.

Additionally, temp employees or agency employees are considered covered under the agency, not the healthcare organization. No matter what option providers choose, Feldman said it's important for employers to gather staffing data before 2014 hits.

“You need to examine your organization,” Feldkamp said. “You can't know what you'll do in the future if you don't know what you are doing today.”

The full webcast can be downloaded here.