PPACA on Campus: Professors and Students Lose Out

Evidence of the unintended consequences of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) continue to abound. This time, adjunct professors—a group comprising an estimated 70% of university faculty in the U.S.—are facing reduced hours due to the employer mandate provisions in the law.

A recent Wall Street Journal article points to several examples of colleges cutting hours to avoid the law’s penalties for not providing insurance to full-time employees:

The Affordable Care Act requires large employers to offer a minimum level of health insurance to employees who work 30 hours a week or more starting in 2014, or face a penalty. The mandate is a particular challenge for colleges and universities, which increasingly rely on adjuncts to help keep costs down as states have scaled back funding for higher education.

A handful of schools, including Community College of Allegheny County in Pennsylvania and Youngstown State University in Ohio, have curbed the number of classes that adjuncts can teach in the current spring semester to limit the schools’ exposure to the health-insurance requirement. Others are assessing whether to do so, or to begin offering health care to some adjuncts.

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.”

Unfortunately, adjunct professors are not the only group on college campuses adversely affected by the PPACA.

Since the PPACA’s insurance regulations extend to all plans—including those traditionally favored by healthy and generally low-risk students—some colleges have already stopped offering coverage.

Last summer the Wall Street Journal reported:

“We decided not to offer coverage for our students next year given the proposed increase in premium,” said Bob Schmoll, Bethany [College]’s vice president for finance.

Mr. Schmoll said his school wished it could have kept the limited-coverage plan, which he said was a “fairly robust program for the type of need that most students of that age have.” Even the old premium was “for many a struggle to pay,” he said. Students previously had to sign up for the school’s plan if they didn’t have other insurance. Now students won’t be required to have health coverage…

Lenoir-Rhyne University of Hickory, N.C., the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash., and Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa—all private liberal-arts colleges—have told students they are dropping school-sponsored limited-benefit insurance plans starting in the fall. The three colleges said students’ premiums would have gone up roughly tenfold, and they said they could no longer justify making students sign up if they didn’t have their own insurance.

While the PPACA allows many dependent adults to rely on their parents’ health plans for coverage up to age 26, premiums for those in their 20’s are expected to rise 42 percent, according to a new study cited by The Hill.

Update (February 5, 2013)

The Department of Health and Human Services recently proposed an unexpected rule allowing colleges with self-funded health plans to meet the minimum coverage requirements of the PPACA. Since only about 30 higher education institutions have these self-funded plans, the proposed rule will not affect the vast majority of colleges, unless they decide to move towards a self-funded plan.

In Depth: Education

An excellent education has long been recognized as key to the American Dream. Unfortunately, the current monopolistic and expensive K-12 education system is failing our students, leaving them unprepared for college, careers, or life. Similarly, our higher education system is leaving students with higher debt burdens and fewer career guarantees…

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