On May 19, 2014, Fred van Hartesveldt, GRCC Faculty Association President, addressed GRCC Board of Trustees during their meeting. Below is the transcript (not verbatim) of his address.
Good afternoon, everyone; I’d like to address you today about GRCC’s compliance with the Affordable Care Act, the purpose of which is to provide health care coverage to employees who work, on average, 30 clock hours per week but less than full-time. As you probably recall, last year you budgeted money so that we would comply with this new federal law. That was laudable because, even though most of us aren’t wild about having the federal government get involved in our health care, even though health care under the Act may not be affordable after all, it still is the law of the land and we’re obligated to follow it.
After we budgeted for the Affordable Care Act, though, things went downhill.
The effective date of the act was delayed and we spent the money on other things.
We created a new Meet and Confer category of Limited Benefit Contingency employees who might receive health care benefits under the Affordable Care Act. However, it’s a small number of employees – about 15? – out of all the part-time and adjunct GRCC employees who worked 30 hours or more for GRCC.
For most of our part-time and adjunct employees who would’ve qualified for health care coverage under the ACA, other than the Limited Benefit Contingency employees, we held their hours down or cut their hours to make sure they wouldn’t qualify for ACA health care coverage. So they are double losers: not only do they not receive health care coverage as intended by the law, they lose work. This is shameful.
The cap on hours is based upon a false premise, one that everyone knows is false, which is that adjunct faculty assigned 12 contact hours or less a semester work less than 30 hours a week. I won’t belabor this point; if you want to know how many hours adjunct faculty really put in, ask them to keep track of their hours. Make sure to include the mandatory trainings, the activities they’re “invited” to attend, and their “volunteer” time. This is not just dismissive and insulting to adjuncts. To say that they don’t average 30 hours a week is patently false. Because we know it’s false, yet we subscribe to it, basically we’re lying and the government regulation embraces the lie.
Who are these employees? Some of them are all neediest employees and the ones we need the most – tutors and academic advisors. Others are underemployed adjuncts. According to one faculty member who has applied for Medicaid Insurance for his children, one of our HR employees told him “we do a lot of these” low income verifications for the Department of Human Services. We’re hurting some of the poorest among us.
Some of these employees just want the work hours, not the insurance, because they can’t afford a pay cut. They’re willing to sign affidavits that they won’t ask for GRCC health care coverage. That didn’t matter. We still took from those among us who have the least.
Cutting back hours also hurts employees with student loans because unless they work 30 hours a week they don’t qualify for federal public service loan forgiveness. As put by the adjunct faculty member who pointed that out to me, “this is so disheartening.”
What are the effects on students?
- we lose experienced employees, or at least a number of hours worked by experienced employees, with direct contact with students.
- to do the work of the hours that were cut, we have to hire, train and manage even more employees, employees who need office space, computers, support from HR, IT, administration and other resources, all at a cost we don’t even consider. This makes no sense to me at all. Alternatively, we can try to shift those hours to other employees. Either way, to put it gently, this does not improve employee commitment to GRCC.
What might you do about this? At a minimum, you could ask some questions. For example, why have we granted Affordable Care Act coverage to one small select group of contingency employees and not employees in other work groups? Why can’t we trust employees who will sign statements that they won’t take ACA coverage and just give them the hours they used to work? Is the cost of ACA coverage really more than the cost of adding more employees?
At a maximum you could comply with the intent of the law instead of using the letter of the law to avoid it! Yes, that would mean that your hard budget decisions, and I’m the first to agree with you that they are very hard budget decisions, would be to invest more in people. But isn’t that who and what we are, an institution of people?
You would not be alone if you decided to follow the intent of the Affordable Care Act. According to the Rand Corporation (a non-profit, independent organization), 8.2 million Americans have new employer health insurance since mid-2013, and 7.2 million of those never had health insurance before. This finding debunks the belief that “everyone” is cutting hours to avoid “Obamacare.”
The talk I’ve heard from administrators on this topic is always about costs and expenses, never about investment and value received. Why don’t we focus instead on the human capital we gain for our money – better morale, retention of personnel, and higher productivity and quality?