University of Oklahoma won’t cut hours to avoid Obamacare regs, but one small college implements limits

So far, there’s not much evidence this is happening in Oklahoma, and some officials at public universities have denied plans to do anything of the sort.

To be sure, however, CapitolBeatOK plans to check into policies at the state’s different tax-financed campuses. 

Last week, Investors Business Daily gathered together the names of 258 employees in an “ObamaCare” scorecard featuring a long list of private and public employers taking practical steps to reduce certain employees to fewer than 30 hours work a week. That is the point at which the Affordable Care Act’s mandatory health insurance coverage kicks in on large employers. 

Most of those contending the ACA will lead to fewer full-time jobs have been conservatives, libertarians or economists studying the economic impact of the various mandates in the law, which begins to take effect on October 1. 

However, last week at the national convention of the AFL-CIO, national American Federation of Teachers secretary-Treasurer Lorretta Johnson decried the impact of ACA as it affects college professors and others who are being held to less than 30 hours or work a week. 

Here in the Sooner State, however, communications specialists for both the University of Oklahoma and the state Regents for Higher Education say they have no knowledge of employment policy shifts to avoid the 30-hour mandate. 

Catherine Bishop, vice president for communications at OU, told Oklahoma Watchdog, “The 30-hour threshold under the Affordable Care Act does not affect benefits eligibility at the University of Oklahoma, since all employees who work 20 hours a week or more are currently eligible for health insurance benefits.

“Graduate teaching assistants who work 20 hours a week or more receive subsidized health insurance through the Student Health Plan.

“The Affordable Care Act does require colleges and universities to determine the number of hours worked by adjunct faculty while in the classroom and preparing for the class.

“There are currently no plans to change the work hours for graduate teaching assistants or adjunct faculty at the University of Oklahoma. The University will continue to monitor the Affordable Care Act, changes in the higher education marketplace, and how to respond to those changes.” 

In late August, Angela O. Caddell, interim director of communications for the state Regents, said the umbrella agency for the state’s institutions of higher education does not “maintain information relating to any faculty or graduate assistant work schedules at the campuses. Policies or practices that govern the employment of higher education faculty or graduate assistants fall within the purview of the institutions and their respective governing boards. Accordingly, questions regarding campus employment policies or practices should be directed to the individual institutions.” 

Jonathan Small, fiscal policy director at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, said it’s reasonable for Oklahoma taxpayers to want to know how Obamacare will impact the costs for public institutions they are required to subsidize.

“Based on the lack of response from the state regents, it seems that too many Oklahoma public institutions are indifferent to Obamacare because they either already universally provided the rich benefits desired by Obamacare, or are not closely monitoring the situation enough to provide taxpayers with an analysis of Obamacare’s impact,” Small said.

“Given the Regents recent approval of controversial salary increasesthis lack of oversight must further discourage parents and students who have had to endure tuition and fee increases exceeding 100 percent over the last decade.”

Still, the spokesman at Rose State College, an Oklahoma City-area community school, reported an effort to limit adjunct faculty hours in such a way to keep part-time employees in part-time status, even under the ACA’s definitions.

“Prior to July 1, 2013, Rose State College’s policies and procedures indicated adjunct faculty should have not more than 18 credit hours assigned during an academic year.  As of July 1, 2013, that specific policy states adjunct faculty should have not more than 24 credit hours assigned during a calendar year,” said John Cain, campus director of marketing.

He told Oklahoma Watchdog, “To ensure compliance with College policy, compliance with various laws/regulations, in addition to being good financial stewards, the College continuously monitors the hours of adjunct faculty.”

The practical effect of the teaching limits would keep adjuncts under the part-time strictures, at least at Rose State.

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