House Republicans are launching a fresh attack on ObamaCare by claiming that it hurts America’s students.
“We must be mindful that federal policies unrelated to education can still burden classrooms,” Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) said at a House Education and the Workforce Committee hearing on Thursday.
“At a time when we need to recruit the best teachers, train today’s workers for the jobs of the future and school leaders are trying to do more with less, imposing a fundamentally flawed and costly law on our schools is not in the best interests of teachers, parents, taxpayers or students,” Kline, the committee’s chairman, said.
According to Rep. Lou BarlettaLou BarlettaA guide to the committees: House Republicans who oppose, support Trump refugee order GOP's 'sanctuary city' crackdown bill takes meat-cleaver approach MORE (R-Pa.), lawmakers say they want colleges to lower their cost, “yet we continue to burden them with these requirements. The administrative burden of the Affordable Care Act will be substantial.”
The so-called employer mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires employers with more than 50 full-time workers to offer health insurance or pay a fine.
That could amount to new costs for colleges that rely on adjunct faculty, who teach a few classes each year but have often been considered part-time workers.
The Internal Revenue Service is still working on how to calculate the hours of work those teachers do each week, since it is often outside of the classroom and the office, to see if they meet the standard for full-time workers. But school officials told the panel on Thursday that they expected to have to make cuts.
“We are already in deep discussions about having to cut the teaching loads for our adjunct, part-time teaching positions,” said Thomas Jandris, a dean at Concordia University Chicago.
But some Democrats said that schools had avoided providing those adjunct professors with health insurance for too long.
Less than a quarter of adjunct faculty get health insurance from their colleges, even though contingent teachers fill up three-quarters of the overall teaching spots, according to Maria Maisto, president of New Faculty Majority, a coalition that supports adjunct teachers.
“It is not the ACA but rather these colleges’ interpretation of and response to the law that is hurting their students,” she testified.
Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) suggested that the problem was the way those adjunct workers are treated by their schools, not necessarily flaws in the healthcare law.
“I think it raises a really serious issue about how people are in the standard, in this pecking order, and how arbitrary the pecking order is and who gets inside the system and who gets outside the system,” he said.
The panel also heard from the superintendent of schools in Meriden, Conn., who said that the law was stretching their resources.
“We cannot effectively sustain these significant healthcare expenses,” Mark Benigni, superintendent of schools for Meriden Public Schools, told the panel. “These will cause us to cut staff, reduce programs, minimize current healthcare plan, cut employee hours and consider outsourcing current services. It will be our students who lose out.”
Earlier this year, the Obama administration delayed the employer mandate provision of the law, which was originally set to take effect in January, to 2015.
Gregory Needles, who works on employee benefits with the Morgan, Lewis and Bockius law firm, said that that delay has had a minor effect on schools’ decisions.
“By extending a year, that’s helped them to take a more measured approach, but it’s not changing the decision that they’re [making],” he testified before the committee. “Perhaps the implementation is getting delayed a fraction.”