Politics & Policy

Bill Aims to Exempt Student Workers from Obamacare

Introduced in the House, it would help students keep jobs and hours as they pay for college.

Concern over capped hours and student unemployment caused by the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate has prompted Representative Mark Meadows (R., N.C.) to introduce a bill exempting colleges from the provision requiring them to provide health insurance to student workers.

The mandate kicks in when student workers clock at least 30 hours each week. “My heart goes out to any student workers who have had hours cut or lost jobs because of Obamacare,” Meadows told Campusreform.org. “This law has hurt countless small businesses and families — and now young people are feeling the pain as well.”

The bipartisan Student Worker Exemption Act was inspired by Western Carolina University (WCU) chancellor David Belcher and endorsed by University of North Carolina (UNC) system president Tom Ross. The UNC system also helped draft the bill.

“Whether you’re an Obamacare supporter or someone like myself who opposes the law, you can agree that jeopardizing student employment options at a time when student loan debt is $1.08 trillion and the cost of tuition is rising is unacceptable,” Meadows told Campusreform.org.

The bill was originally cosponsored by seven Republican representatives and two Democratic representatives. The American Council on Education and the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources have also endorsed the legislation.

At the end of July, the University of Kansas cut the number of hours students are allowed to work on campus from 30 to 20. Diane Goddard, the university’s vice provost for administration and finance, told the departments that it had reduced work hours for undergraduates in order to “balance the necessity for students to make academic progress while managing potential fiscal liabilities with ACA.”

University of North Carolina has already cut hours and jobs for its employees to avoid paying as much as $47 million extra because of the ACA employer mandate. In March, UNC officials said they might reduce the hours of around three-quarters of eligible employees. WCU employs 1,500 students, and 75 of them work at least 30 hours per week. Belcher estimated the insurance cost for those 75 students to be $302,515 each year, according to the Asheville Citizen-Times.

Belcher said the university may reduce student work hours if it is forced to provide health insurance to undergraduate employees. Alternatively, WCU and other schools may raise tuition to cover the cost of the insurance. He added that more student workers successfully graduate than those who work off campus.

Universities are already considering cuts after the general assembly approved state-budget adjustments this summer. Last summer North Carolina lawmakers reduced state spending for 13 of 16 UNC members.

— Celina Durgin is a Franklin Center intern at National Review Online.

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