Academics Suffer Under Affordable Care Act

November 19th, 2012

Under the ACA, employees who work more than 30 hours a week must be provided health care. Totally unsurprisingly, employers will now keep more employers under the thirty hour window. Papa Johns has come under some flack for doing this, but it turns out academic institutions–whose constituents almost certainly supported the ACA–are doing the same thing.

Community College of Allegheny County (in Pittsburgh) is dropping adjunct professors below the 30 hour threshold in order to cut costs. And the professors are not happy!

To Community College of Allegheny County’s president, Alex Johnson, cutting hours for some 400 temporary part-time workers to avoid providing health insurance coverage for them under the impending Affordable Health Care Act is purely a cost-saving measure at a time the college faces a funding reduction.

But to some of the employees affected, including 200 adjunct faculty members, the decision smacks of an attempt to circumvent the national health care legislation that goes into effect in January 2014.

“It’s kind of a double whammy for us because we are facing a legal requirement [under the new law] to get health care and if the college is reducing our hours, we don’t have the money to pay for it,” said Adam Davis, an adjunct professor who has taught biology at CCAC since 2005.

Temporary part-time employees received an email notice from Mr. Johnson on Tuesday informing them that the new health care act defines full-time employees as those working 30 hours or more per week.

As a result, the college as of Dec. 31 will reduce temporary part-time employee hours to 25 per week. For adjuncts, the workload limit will be reduced from 12 to 10 credits per semester.

This is not an unintended consequence. This was entirely foreseeable. So now the adjuncts have no health insurance, and five fewer hours of salary a week.

And this is only a start:

Jeff Cech, a United Steelworkers representative who is leading the effort to unionize adjunct professors at Duquesne University, said that adjuncts throughout the city are talking about Mr. Johnson’s memo to the CCAC adjuncts.

He said he hasn’t heard of any other college or university making such an announcement, but he noted that CCAC likely gives adjuncts the heaviest loads and therefore is most affected by the impending health care legislation.

“They may be complying with the letter of the law, but the letter of law and the spirit of the law are two different things,” Mr. Cech said. “If they are doing it at CCAC, it can’t be long before they do it other places.”

A spokesman for the American Association of University Professors said his organization has not heard of this action being taken at other academic institutions.

H/T Josh W.