I’m fortunate to have good health insurance. Having lived for a few years without any, I’m not oblivious to that. I’m particularly grateful at the moment, since I got a piece of dead bug exoskeleton stuck to my eye Saturday* that I could not flush off, resulting in a scratched cornea and a trip to the emergency room. And today I’m going to my doctor because the eye is swollen and painful. Without health insurance, I’d be facing either a whopping bill for my emergency room or perhaps facing the prospect of permanent eye injury.
That’s why I had a hard time arguing against PPACA, despite my dislike of the legislation. I’m among the least likely to be affected one way or the other by it, and there’s a certain level at which privilege arguing against help for others sticks in my throat.
But one bad effect of it has just come to my attention, and it’s worth noting as one of those inevitable side-effects of any government policy that starry-eyed advocates always want to pretend can’t and don’t occur. Their proposal has a good purpose, after all, so of course it does no harm to anyone. Or so we always hope.
Adjunct instructors in academia will lose income next year because of the bill. It was announced at our college last week, that to avoid having to buy health insurance for adjuncts, they would be cut back to a maximum of 8 hours (2 courses).This means one of our adjuncts, who has taught 12 credit hours a term for us for the past two years, will have his paycheck from my college cut by 1/3 next year. That’s assuming we can keep him, since he could very well decide his commute is no longer worthwhile (and adjuncts who are Ph.D. candidates with a JD from a top 10 law school are not easy to find, especially in a rural location like ours).
It’s not just us. I was speaking this weekend with someone who adjuncts at a private career-oriented college (a century old one, not some new fly-by-night operation), and they were also told they’d have to cut back. According to her, a full-time adjunct earns around $18,000, and it was going to cost about $15,000 per to insure them.
These schools just don’t have that much extra money (and getting it would require yet more tuition inflation). It’s doubtful public schools, whether community colleges or universities, will be able to do so, either, since their budgeting and tuition is constrained, at least in part, by state legislatures.
Rumor also has it (although I can’t vouch for this), that PPACA rules constrain people from working two 1/2 time jobs in the same industry as a way of getting around this. If so, that means they won’t be able to pick up the extra courses elsewhere. There’s a certain reasonableness to this rule, else college X and college Y could just arrange to do some adjunct swapping to avoid the effect of the rule. But limiting work-arounds doesn’t mean the affected entities will simply buck up and produce the outcome the rulemakers really want.
That last part is probably the hardest lesson for advocates to figure out. People don’t simply comply with rules to produce your desired outcome, but always look for a way to produce the outcome most amenable to themselves.
PPACA is a godawful mess. The big question is whether the pressure for change caused by its godawfulness will result in repeal, a reform that screws things up even more, or full-fledged single-payer. I know lots of liberals who are hoping for the latter, and thinking it’s part of a clever long-game on Obama’s part, but given the market size and political power of health insurance firms in the U.S., I’m skeptical.
*My wife has, of course, taken to calling me bug eyes.