In many ways, the White House’s surprise announcement that it would delay the employer mandate provision of the Affordable Care Act by one year, until January 2015, is good news for colleges and universities struggling to figure out just who will be covered under the law. InsideHigherEd says that “It gives institutions more time to decide how they’ll count adjunct instructors, whose credit hour-based schedules don’t fit neatly into the law’s existing metrics for qualifying for coverage.
“And while the announcement could lead to good news for adjuncts who have had their hours limited by colleges worried about the new provision taking effect, there was little celebration Wednesday. Colleges said that they were studying the situation, but no one was pledging to lift limits or restore hours to anyone.
“But in other ways, it adds a new layer of confusion onto what is already a complicated situation, particularly for those colleges that already have announced plans to limit adjuncts’ course loads to avoid having to provide them with health insurance as full-time employees. Questions remain as to whether institutions will temporarily backtrack on their plans, and if that’s even possible, given the timing of the announcement, so far into summer when planning for fall courses is already under way.
“I think that the government has poorly served institutions by announcing this delay so abruptly and so relatively close to the date of implementation,” said David Baime, senior vice president for government relations and research of the American Association of Community Colleges – one of many organizations that’s asked the federal government to issue long-promised specific guidelines as to what constitutes a full-time employee in higher education under the law. (In January, the Internal Revenue Service asked higher education officials to use “reasonable” means of calculating faculty hours worked.)
“At the same time, Baime added, “We hope that colleges will take this additional time given to them to evaluate their approach to policies in this area and, even more importantly, ask the government exactly what’s expected of them as institutions.”