ObamaCare

We already knew that Obamacare was spurring some colleges to cut student hours so they wouldn’t qualify for free healthcare – even for student journalists.

Now the law has been cited by the University of Colorado-Boulder for its new 25-hour weekly cap on student work hours, Colorado Springs CBS affiliate KKTV reports.

For students bummed about losing income that could pay for tuition and textbook price spikes, there’s a silver lining, the newscast says: “The school believes it will also help students focus on getting their degrees.”

h/t Washington Free Beacon

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IMAGE: KKTV screenshot

I know there are a lot of pressing matters in this world right now: radical Muslim extremists continue to chop the heads off people at home and abroad; bizarre health threats like that respiratory illness and the Ebola virus has freaked everyone out right now; atrocious abuses of power committed by the IRS and NSA remain unprosecuted; and Common Core is dumbing down our children faster than anything they watch on TV.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

But one subject I hope does not leave the minds and lips and keyboards of the American people anytime soon is how bad Obamacare is for this country. I know it’s largely slipped off the front pages, and calls for repeal have died down. But it remains one of the worst government mandates to ever be created and it continues to wreak havoc on millions of Americans, including and frequently college students.

Here’s the latest headline, just one of many that cross my desk every week: “Obamacare Limits Student Employee Hours.”

It was published by the student newspaper at Oswego State University in New York and reports that “State University of New York recently updated and revised its student employment policy, which by result of the Affordable Care Act, will limit students employed by their college to work a maximum of 20 hours per week during the academic year and 29 hours per week during the summer.”

Thousands and thousands of colleges across America have done the same.

I am not going to go into how Obamacare has not lived up to its promises, blatantly misled the American people, and has been a boondoggle and a disaster for so many, just type “Obamacare” in our search engine and you’ll see dozens of stories that detail all that.

But the sliver of hope I had held onto that perhaps somehow this national nightmare could be repealed is diminishing. And that’s a shame, for our country and its future.

Jennifer Kabbany is editor of The College Fix (@JenniferKabbany)

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Indiana University Southeast business professor Linda Christiansen and economics professor D. Eric Schansber rip Obamacare a new one in a jointly bylined op-ed that ran over the weekend in The Star Press.

Headlined “ObamaCare: A Tale of Four Students,” it outlines how college students of all stripes – those who work for their colleges (teaching assistants, Residence Advisers, etc.) and even those who work elsewhere, are getting screwed by the new law, which purportedly aimed to help young people but actually makes matters much worse for them. All of the students in the column have been penalized by the legislation in different ways.

The op-ed explains the law’s “perverse and largely-ignored consequences.”

Thanks to ObamaCare, there are many more contexts in which working less — and hiring people to work fewer hours — has become financially attractive. Aside from the amazingly slow pace of the economic recovery by historical standards, all of this also explains why we’ve had so much growth in part-time work and so little in full-time work. …

ObamaCare did nothing to reduce the problems created earlier by the government. Instead, in its attempt to help some people, it extended those problems and added new ones — by multiplying and complicating the links between health insurance, work and family.

And college students are some of the worst off thanks to Obamacare.

Read the full column.

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Telling the government rather than an insurance company that a university will not pay for contraceptives, such as abortion-inducing drugs, is only a “cosmetic” change that still forces a university to “facilitate” its employees getting contraception, four Christian universities in Oklahoma said in a new filing in their challenge to Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate.

Represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, the universities told the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals the administration’s new “accommodation” – in which the government arranges cost-free contraception for university employees after a school files its “religious objections” directly with the Department of Health and Human Services – still makes universities complicit:

They must still file a document causing their health plan, insurer, and/or third party administrator (TPA) to be commandeered by the government and used as a mule to deliver certain objectionable items. Under the old accommodation invocation mechanism, they completed and sent a particular form to the insurer or TPA; now it is a letter to the government identifying the insurer or TPA, which causes a letter to be sent to the insurer or TPA. …

The government could use its money—which under the new rule it offers to pay to TPAs—to deliver these items through the government’s own channels, without hijacking the Universities’ own plan administrator or insurer by means of the Universities’ contracts and their letters to the government. But the government stubbornly insists on involving the Universities in the delivery channels anyway.

It’s a “semantic” argument that universities won’t end up paying for abortion-inducing drugs:

[T]he government cannot deny that the payments for objectionable items that the Universities’ insurers would offer under the interim rule are part of the Universities’ own coverage. Therefore the Universities are substantially burdened because they are being required to provide a plan that covers the items, despite the government’s semantic denial of that fact.

Senior Counsel Gregory Baylor of the Alliance Defending Freedom says religious nonprofits should get the same exemption offered to churches, rather than a string of proposed accommodations which indicate that the government can find “less restrictive” ways of providing contraception.

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The University of Notre Dame may have undermined its legal case against the contraceptive mandate in Obamacare by approving a student health plan that covers abortifacients, the National Catholic Register reported, citing legal experts:

“The university need not provide student health insurance at all,” said Gerard Bradley, a constitutional scholar at Notre Dame’s law school, who outlined the options available to university administrators.

Bradley noted that only group health plans must comply with the mandate. Consequently, the university also had another option: It could have opted to self-insure the plan for students and avoid coverage of services that violate Catholic teaching. …

“In its pending lawsuit about the employee and staff health plan, Notre Dame has said that its Catholic faith forbids it to arrange or facilitate coverage for contraception and abortion,” Bradley said.

“Yet when it comes to student health coverage, the university has chosen to facilitate and arrange coverage for contraception and abortion. The court hearing Notre Dame’s lawsuit will surely notice this inconsistency.”

Part of the problem is how long the school waited to challenge the mandate after its original suit was thrown out as premature:

[Alumni group leader William] Dempsey contended that Notre Dame’s 11th-hour petition prompted the judge to question the university’s sincerity. That skepticism, said Dempsey, will be reinforced in the wake of the latest news regarding the student health plan.

“Notre Dame has declared in court that to do what it is doing now would be scandalous. And it is doing this voluntarily,” Dempsey emphasized, echoing concerns raised in the alumni newsletter.

Read the full story here.

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Colleges cutting student hours, making some sign waivers so they don’t get insurance

Obamacare has led some colleges and universities to limit the hours that students can work on campus to make sure they don’t qualify for school-provided health insurance.

I’m one of those student workers, and Point Loma Nazarene University keeps me from hitting the Affordable Care Act’s threshold of 30 working hours a week. But it’s far from alone.

Last month, the University of Kansas said it would limit student workers to 20 hours per week for the school year and 40 hours in the summer. With these limitations, students will fall under the 1,560-hour per year threshold that would otherwise make them full-time workers who qualify for health coverage, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported.

Beyond those struggling to pay for college, the threshold has interfered with the ability of student journalists to report on campus, as The College Fix has noted.

studentphotographer.DanielBachhuber.flickrWhen it limited student working hours, Wright State University in Ohio faced the issue of tracking student journalists’ hours, as they were not paid an hourly rate. The school created a software system that requires students to clock in and out, giving them a warning when the 28-hour limit is approaching, the Chronicle said.

“We had no budget for that,” said Dan Abrahamowicz, vice president for student affairs at Wright State, regarding the possibility of paying for students’ health insurance. “We had to make some adjustments.”

The Iowa State Daily is making its staff who work more than 29 hours a week sign a waiver saying they get insurance through their parents or otherwise don’t need it, as suggested by “a lawyer,” General Manager Laura Widmer told the Student Press Law Center. “It’s hard to say, ‘OK, you can only work 29 hours a week and oh my gosh if there’s a breaking story and you’re on hour 29, walk away,’” she said.

Miami University and Kent State University in Ohio and La Sierra University in California are also among schools that have reduced student worker hours, according to the Chronicle.

Full-Time in Practice, Part-Time in Name Only

My situation at Point Loma, whose complicated student work rules were in place years before Obamacare, shows how colleges can structure students’ job positions on campus so they never officially become full-time workers, regardless of how long they work.

baristastudent.RyanWeisser.flickrStudent Financial Services sees me as a student worker for the 20 hours a week I work in a campus coffee shop. I also serve as editor of The Point’s features section as well as manager of the biweekly newscast Coastline News, which together take up at least 9 hours a week. If those positions were all counted equally, I’d “officially” work at least 29 hours a week – just under the Obamacare threshold.

But the journalism positions are paid through stipends that aren’t guaranteed. Rather than officially clocking hours, as I do at the coffee shop, student journalists write weekly reports of what we are doing and meet in front of the student senate at the end of the year, which judges whether each of us gets our stipend. If my full stipend gets approved, I’ll earn $1,475 per semester.

That’s not all. As director of activities and design for the student government, I’ll work anywhere from seven to 15 hours a week. That’s a scholarship position that pays for my room and board.

Think about that: I work anywhere from 36 to 44 paid hours a week on campus during the school year, yet Point Loma only counts my coffee-shop job as work for the purpose of my job status (part-time).

It gets even more complicated in the summer. As a condition of getting free housing, Point Loma requires students to work full-time, so this summer I’ve worked 40 hours a week in the cafeteria.

Among all positions – paid by hourly wage, stipends and scholarship – I’m easily exceeding the 1,560-hour yearly threshold, but I do not qualify for health insurance because only my hourly-wage work is counted under Point Loma’s rules.

Debra Lively, employment and internship coordinator for Point Loma’s Offices of Strengths and Vocation, told me the school’s limit on official student working hours isn’t intended to avoid the Obamacare threshold.

“Our primary concern is for the students – they are a student first and we offer them the opportunity to work as a way to contribute to the university and earn money,” Lively said. “This has been part of the university’s system for over 10-plus years.”

$21 Million to Cover Student Workers in UNC System

Rather than send colleges to their lawyers for creative accounting or make student journalists sign waivers, one Republican congressman proposes exempting student workers entirely from Obamacare.

Students working “more than 30 hours a week for three months or more, including summer breaks,” will “soon” trigger Obamacare mandates for their colleges and universities, North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows said in an op-ed for the Asheville Citizen-Times. Meadows said the University of North Carolina system alone has “3,900 students workers who would fall under the Employer Mandate, costing the universities about $21 million.”

markmeadows.youtube.screenshotMeadows’ Student Worker Exemption Act (HR-5262) has been endorsed by Tom Ross, president of the UNC system, and David Belcher, chancellor of Western Carolina University.

“Students need every opportunity possible to pay for the high cost of their education,” Meadows wrote. “Being forced to rack up massive debt and then face one of the worst job markets in history for young workers should not be the only option.”

According to a 2012 report by the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 20 percent of the nation’s 19.7 million undergraduates are working full-time for the entire year. That heavy workload leads some scholars to argue that the Obamacare threshold is beside the point.

Laura Perna, a professor of higher education at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education and editor of the book Understanding the Working College Student, told the Chronicle that students who work 10 to 15 hours a week on campus do better academically and graduate at higher rates than their peers.

Perna says legislation like Meadows’ student exemption bill raises eyebrows. “It really should make us think, ‘What is a student if they’re working more than 30 hours per week?’”

College Fix contributor Samantha Watkins is a student at Point Loma Nazarene University.

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IMAGES:  UC Davis Gateways Project/Flickr, Daniel Bachhuber/Flickr, Ryan Weisser/Flickr, YouTube screenshot