The Affordable Care Act And College Journalists: An Imperfect Match

Aug 13, 2014

Credit Ian Usher / Flickr

Universities across the country have made it clear that providing health coverage for temporary employees -- like adjunct professors and grad students -- is prohibitively expensive. So they've been cutting back hours to put those employees below the weekly 30-hour threshold set by the Affordable Care Act's employer mandate.

One group of students who this is likely to effect when the employer mandate goes into effect (currently set for January 1, 2015) is student journalists.

"It's not at all uncommon if you're the editor or the managing editor or the sports editor of a daily college newspaper that you'll put on a 40- or even a 50- hour workweek," said Frank Lamonte of the Student Press Law Center. 

"Our concern is that the ACA mandate not be used in a Draconian way that results in student editors not being allowed to work the hours they need to work to do their jobs properly. This clearly was not something that was ever foreseen by the people who created the ACA. It's just a glitch and it just needs a Band-Aid to fix it. "

Last month, Congressman Mark Meadows (R-Glenville, NC) introduced legislation that would exempt student workers from the employer mandate. Many students already have coverage under their parents' plans.  So, Meadows argues, it would be more expensive to cover them than it is worth.

The University of North Carolina system employees about 3,900 students who fall into this category at a cost of about $21 million to the schools.

UNC President Tom Ross has voiced support for the exemptions.