A number of reports in recent weeks reveal that a universities across the United States are beginning to take preventative measures before the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” in 2014.
It seems that universities are cutting the hours of part time employees to just under 30 hours per week so they will not be responsible for the cost of the employees’ health care, or the fines they would incur from not providing it. The staff, then, not only lose any health benefits they may have had, but also have to take a pay cut from lost hours.
The Wall Street Journal relates:
In Ohio, instructor Robert Balla faces a new cap on the number of hours he can teach at Stark State College. In a Dec. 6 letter, the North Canton school told him that “in order to avoid penalties under the Affordable Care Act… employees with part-time or adjunct status will not be assigned more than an average of 29 hours per week.”
Mr. Balla, a 41-year-old father of two, had taught seven English composition classes last semester, split between Stark State and two other area schools. This semester, his course load at Stark State is down to one instead of two as a result of the school’s new limit on hours, cutting his salary by about a total of $2,000.
Stark State’s move came as a blow to Mr. Balla, who said he earns about $40,000 a year and cannot afford health insurance.
“I think it goes against the spirit of the [health-care] law,” Mr. Balla said. “In education, we’re working for the public good, we are public employees at a public institution; we should be the first ones to uphold the law, to set the example.”
University professors are notoriously left-leaning, but the ones with the most national influence are the tenured professors who will be covered by Obamacare and make on average around $120,000 a year. The champions of fairness, though, appear to have left their adjunct colleagues, who make roughly $3,200 per class, in the cold.
But are the schools just being greedy? Why won’t they just provide health insurance for all their employees? The Wall Street Journal breaks down the financial situation of one school:
At Community College of Allegheny County, which has an annual budget of around $109 million, administrators estimate it would cost at least $6 million to provide health benefits to the 200 adjuncts whose hours are being cut, plus 200 support staff who also work an equivalent of 30 hours.
That likely would have required a significant tuition increase, at a time when the school is trying to keep down the cost for students while absorbing reductions in state funding, said David Hoovler, executive assistant to the college’s president.
The school says it is working on a plan that educators can purchase through the college, which would be somewhat less expensive than if they were left to fend for themselves.
Gwen Bradley, a senior program officer for the American Association of University Professors, commented: “Adjuncts are very precarious anyway…They usually have very low wages, and are often already below the thresholds for health care. But for those people who have it, being cut down to lose it is very devastating.”
The American Thinker notes that the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) threw its support wholeheartedly behind Barack Obama in 2012, saying its members would commit to “tirelessly working” to ensure his re-election.
“Barack Obama is the only candidate running for president who understands that economic growth depends upon economic fairness, and who has articulated an agenda focused on rebuilding and expanding the middle class, and reasserting in public policy and public discourse the importance of giving everyone a fair shot at success,” they declared.
According to MSNBC, the AFT is now looking to push the federal government for yet another law requiring schools to count time spend outside the classroom, grading tests and papers, as part of the employees’ work hours.