Is there a doctor in the house?

Health care reform affects college faculty and students

By Xavier Thompson
Staff Writer

President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been received by Americans with mixed reviews.

Recently, colleges across the country have spoken out against the act, particularly as it applies to student health plans and faculty insurance requirements, although the ACA—commonly referred to as “Obamacare”—does carry benefits for young adults.  Most notably, people in this age demographic will be covered under their parents’ insurance until the age of 26.

“This could give the grad some time to gain some experience in a position, receive a good salary, and not have to worry about benefits for some time,” said Eric Oakland, benefits consultant at the Ruggieri Consulting Group.

“If a student can’t find the perfect job right away, then it allows them to be more selective in their choice because one of the major expenses they would face would be taken care of by being on their parents’ plan.”

However, college students who rely on insurance provided through their schools may see different effects. Some colleges, particularly private liberal arts colleges, are considering eliminating student health plans due to the increased costs under the ACA. According to the Wall Street Journal, the costs of these plans could increase by as much as 1,112 percent.

Covering college students’ health care is a fairly easy task, considering these students are generally at the peak of health, according to Forbes.com.  Therefore, students are typically offered “limited benefit” plans with a set cap, usually around $10,000. As a result, plans are inexpensive and affordable on nearly any budget.

Caps this low can be problematic due to hospital fees.  If a student had to be admitted to a hospital, a cap of $10,000 would not cover the cost of care. The ACA, however, prohibits such caps.  From 2013 to 2014 caps cannot be set below $500,000, according to Forbes.com. After 2014 they will be eliminated entirely.

Under Obamacare, adults have preventive care, including physicals, inoculations and various health screenings.

Some colleges have cut adjunct faculty hours to avoid paying for their health care insurance. The ACA considers an employee “full-time” if they work 30 hours or more per week, according to The Huffington Post.

Employer-assisted health insurance must be provided to all full-time individuals.

Part-time employees may only work up to 29 hours per week without having to be covered by their employers. Assistant faculty may only teach up to 10 credits per semester in order to receive “part-time” status. Community colleges that typically employ more adjunct instructors than other colleges and universities are feeling the effects of this law.

It is important to note that the Affordable Care Act is in its infancy and subject to revision. This was stressed by Susan Cyrulnik, Benefits Manager in the Human Resources Department Schoolcraft College:  “Laws are very complex and difficult to interpret. We must work closely with an insurance broker and spend a lot of time learning new laws.”

As 2014 progresses, so will the debate about how Obamacare will affect Americans both today and into the future.

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