Obamacare mandate hits Hillsdale
by Evan Carter on October 31, 2013
On Sept. 23, many students were confused when they received an email from Janet Marsh, the college’s executive director of human resources, notifying them that they should have received a federally-mandated notice of marketplace coverage options under the Affordable Care Act–more commonly known as “Obamacare”.
The college administration has been preparing for the ACA for over a year and has already made many administrative and budgetary changes. The email notice is just one visible example of how the Affordable Care Act is beginning to affect campus.
“For most students, this is nothing that they have to do anything about,” Marsh said.
Though the ACA won’t have any effect on student workers that are still under their parent’s insurance plans, full-time employees of the college will experience some changes in their health care benefits. Regulations in the ACA will result in the elimination of two of the three health reimbursement accounts offered under Hillsdale’s health coverage.
$167,000 in increased taxes and fees from the college’s healthcare underwriter, Blue Cross Blue Shield, can be directly tied to cost increase from the ACA. The college’s attorney fees have increased ten percent from the previous year because of extra work having to do with ACA compliance. Moreover, the college has to pay an extra $65 for every person covered by its health care plan.
“You have to send out letters and confuse people about the ACA because it’s required,” said Richard Péwé, the college’s chief administrative officer.
The email was only meant for faculty, staff and student employees of the college, but because of the way the Hillsdale email directory is sent up, for the notice to reach all student employees, a mass email had to be sent out to the whole student body.
“I hadn’t heard anything,” said Randy Keefe, a Sophomore who works for ITS. “I heard Obamacare was coming, but I didn’t know a notice was coming.”
The college was obligated by the federal government to send the notice to all employees, but since none of the student employees are full time, the notice doesn’t directly apply to them because they aren’t eligible for health insurance benefits from the college.
Increased costs have also raised the possibility of increases in employee premiums.
“Every year we look at whether or not we should increase premiums, this year we might have to increase them,” Péwé said.
Compliance with the law has forced the college to make 14 administrative changes, such as changing its policy on part time employment because under the ACA workers who average 30 hours a week over a three month period are eligible for health care benefits.
“You want to make sure you’re not increasing your benefit liability by letting someone work on average 30 hours a week,” Péwé said.
Overall, the college is complying with the mandates issued by the ACA.
“If there were something that was in direct violation of our mission, we would fight, but I wouldn’t put the college in jeopardy if there are things we can comply with,” Péwé said. “There isn’t a lot of wiggle room with the IRS. People think sometimes that because Hillsdale doesn’t accept federal or state taxpayer dollars, that we don’t comply with the law, but we do.”
Péwé said that some things that are suggested and not mandated under the ACA are not being followed by the college–an example of this like is the college’s refusal to submit medical records to a federal medical database.
“We have nothing to gain from that, so unless somebody said you absolutely must put your records in this network, we’re not going to do that,” Péwé said.
Even with costs set to increase for the college under the ACA, the college plans to cover these increases through shifts in the budget keeping college expenditures even with the level they were the year before. Péwé emphasized that increases in cost due to ACA will have nothing to do with tuition cost increases.
“There is so much that is just unknown about Obamacare,” said Péwé. “We adjust, we do what we have to do.”