Photo by: Will Gentry
ObamaCare creates problems for colleges across the United States
In 2008, Barack Obama promised change to this nation, and in 2012, he brought change to the health care system.
The Health Care For America Plan, better known as ‘ObamaCare,’ is a form of nationalized heath care. In this system, the government regulates health care, ensuring that everyone receives benefits at a low cost using the taxpayers’ dollars.
Though it seems simple enough, there are many nooks and crannies to the law, and not all have been discovered yet. This also means that several of the issues that may arise due to ObamaCare are similarly still buried.
“I think the consequences, many will be intended, but I think there will be a lot of unintended consequences that are negative for employers,” Oklahoma Christian University President John deSteiguer said. “You might see increases or spikes of unemployment as a result of difficulties that they will go through trying to meet the mandates of the law.”
Besides possible higher unemployment rates, other issues could surface.
“It’s the government telling businesses what they have to do, and that’s very difficult,” Vice President for Finance Jeff Bingham said.
Several American colleges, primarily in the Northeast, are beginning to receive a taste of issues from ObamaCare that would directly affect these institutions financially. However, it is difficult to see the repercussions on a large scale as of now.
“There’s still so much of the affordable care act that is still being gone through, and a lot of things are still being negotiated,” Director of Human Resources Lynn Hooper said.
There is a possibility that these universities will have to cut several professors’ (mostly adjunct) hours or lay off members of the staff completely; although they were once not required to give these part-timers benefits, they now must pay if they are working over a certain number of hours.
Therefore, they may no longer be able to continue to employ as many professors, as they can no longer pay for their healthcare.
“If you don’t have as many teachers, then you don’t have as many class sections, and you can’t take as good care of your students,” Bingham said. “Colleges are more affordable in this part of the country, and I think that you’ll have students that have to go other places to go to school.”
Obviously, this could cause a domino effect for the universities, creating even larger problems.
“These universities in the Northeast are going to have a particularly difficult time… because that is going to impact their supply of classes to students and it could impact their enrollment,” deSteiguer said.
Because the Northeast has a higher usage rate for adjunct professors, this particular problem of cutting hours seems to not be an issue for Oklahoma Christian.
“At Oklahoma Christian, we use an adjunct because we need an extra course section, or we need someone to teach something very specific that our other professors can’t teach,” Bingham said. “So when we have an adjunct, they usually are a professional in Oklahoma City that has another job and they come teach one class a week or something like that. So our adjuncts aren’t the type of employees who would ever qualify for insurance.”
Although this one issue may not bring too much change to Oklahoma Christian, other government mandates from ObamaCare will affect the university.
“One of the biggest things facing Oklahoma Christian University is next year there will be a fee that is charged on both fully funded and self-funded plans,” Hooper said. “It will be $5.63 per covered life. So it won’t be just employees, it’ll be employees and their dependents.”
According to Hooper, this would create a large overall fee for Oklahoma Christian in 2014.
“Currently, Oklahoma Christian is looking at paying somewhere in the neighborhood of $36,000 to cover that fee,” Hooper said.
DeSteiguer commented on the fee and what it might mean for Oklahoma Christian.
“Our first reaction will be to try to cover that internally, if we can, whether it be through revenue or charitable gifts to the university,” deSteiguer said.
Hooper mentions a possible silver lining concerning the fee which Oklahoma Christian is going to have to pay.
“The good news, if there is any good news about that, is that the $36,000 will be paid in 2014,” Hooper said. “In ‘15, we will pay a third of that amount, and in ‘16 we will pay a third of that amount. So it goes down every year.”
Oklahoma Christian is not the only college paying this $5.63 fee in 2014; it applies to every college, private and public, across the United States. For universities with a large staff, and thus a large number of staff dependents, this fee is very large.
“We’re a small, private university. So you can imagine the affect it’s going to have on larger universities,” Hooper said.
Healthcare is not the only issue affecting college costs and the administration keeps that in mind.
“There are a lot of things that are happening in the higher education realm beyond just this health care act, ObamaCare,” deSteiguer said. “We have to do the best to keep our costs down and make sure that we provide a high quality education in a Christian atmosphere, and we have to do it in a very innovative way.”