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Health coverage law affects many

It was with heartache that we learned of the difficult position Monadnock Developmental Services has found itself in, as it prepares for compliance with the Affordable Care Act’s Jan. 1, 2014, mandate that employers of 50 or more people offer health insurance to workers who hold positions of 30 hours or more.

MDS — a Keene and Peterborough-based nonprofit that assists people with developmental disabilities — has announced it may have to cut back on hours for some of its full-time employees, in order to avoid paying for health insurance, which costs the organization an average of $15,000 per employee. MDS currently has 300 on the payrolls, and not all of its full-timers currently have health insurance; one MDS employee told us there are some on a waiting list.

The problem of providing health insurance is a predicament many businesses and organizations are facing at the moment, and their reputations are on the line. It would be easy to find fault with those that choose to go the route of cutting hours, but much more difficult to offer a solution. MDS Executive Director Alan Greene, who wrote a viewpoints piece for today’s edition, puts the organization’s position in perspective. “To add some 35 people previously not eligible for insurance would cost MDS more than $500,000 – which would decrease the amount of money available to provide services,” he wrote. “Not complying isn’t an option – we don’t do things that way. Even if we did, we would be subject to penalties of some $200,000.”

In a letter to the editor, which appeared in Thursday’s paper, Karin Wells of Hancock, expressed disappointment in MDS for its plan to cut hours, and for the organization’s record when its comes to employee benefits. It’s unfortunate MDS is in this position and, if it’s true, that its workers have been going without sick-day pay. It seems MDS has chosen to spend what little money it receives on its clients, some of the most vulnerable in the community. If Wells is correct, it may be a sign that MDS is in need of more support, both at the state and local levels.

For years, nonprofit service organizations have been limping along with smaller and smaller funding pools from the state. As these organizations are continually squeezed, there will likely be more stories of employees losing out. We just hope it won’t come to mass layoffs.

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