05.05.2014 1

Obamacare cost shockwave hits local schools equals bad news for Dems


NOTE:  The originally posted version of this story has been significantly revised due to a major correction in the reporting of a primary source.  Below is the revised version.

By Rick Manning

Calvert County, Maryland is a small, wealthy exurban enclave of Washington, DC, wedged between the Chesapeake Bay and the historic Patuxent River.

A tradition rich locale whose county flag features a tobacco leaf symbolizing the historic crop that dominated the landscape even into the 21st century, the County school system is one of the best in the state.

But now the school system has a problem, health insurance costs and claims have risen by 13.7 percent more than was budgeted for, in spite of Obama’s pledge that the Obamacare law would lower these costs.  And that is not all, the main brunt of Obamacare won’t even be felt by the system until 2015, as previously uncovered substitute teachers get coverage and the overall policy costs are projected to go even higher.

A Southern Maryland News article by Sara Newman spells out the bad news for everyone in the school system.   Victoria Karol, the District’s acting director of human resources explains that there is hope that the County will be able to deal with the costs through negotiations with the teacher and administrator unions.

“We’re going to have to work closely with those other unions and develop a health care committee,” Victoria Karol said. “We’re going to have to open a health care article next year in negotiations to help with this.”

Newman quotes Nancy Highsmith, the newly appointed interim superintendent for the Schools as predicting, “There’s no doubt we have got to bring health care on the table next year during negotiations. We cannot sustain this.”

But Highsmith is not just looking toward the teacher’s union, but also is targeting taxpayers who fund the District through taxes paid to the Calvert County government saying, “These are going to be very serious conversations we have to have with the county commissioners.”

Calvert County Commissioner Evan Slaughenhoupt responds to these school administrators saying, “We’ve been able to stretch during this economic downturn and could be at the precipice of where discussions about reducing services could become a reality. Both the school system and the county employees performed extraordinarily at high standards while we have absorbed reduced revenue and increased costs. Time is of the essence now to prepare for the upcoming fiscal years.”

This is the exact type of discussion that school districts and local governments are having across the nation as the reality of Obamacare hits their budgets.  How do they pay for it?

Should teachers and administrators be forced to pay the additional costs through increased deductions in paycheck deductions, should taxpayers pay higher taxes, or should there be budget cuts that impact the education, police, fire and social services that local government provides their constituents?

At a time when Obamacare supporters, like Calvert County’s U.S. Representative Steny Hoyer, double down in support of the law, this new reality and the choices being forced upon local elected officials hit home for their constituents.

As former House Speaker Tip O’Neill famously noted, “all politics is local.”  Now that Obamacare is impacting local schools and public services, that truism promises disaster for those who foisted it upon the public and continue to refuse to repeal it.

Just a small lessen from the geographically smallest county in the deepest blue state of Maryland.

Rick Manning is vice president of public policy and communications for Americans for Limited Government and a resident of Calvert County, Maryland.

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