Faculty at Harvard University are complaining that they will have to pay more for their health insurance under Obamacare, even though overall costs to faculty remain modest and employees of the Ivy League school tend to support President Obama.
Members of Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences voted in November against changes to their insurance policies which would require them to pay more for coverage due to Obamacare, The New York Times reports.
But the vote was too late to stop cost increases from taking effect this month, leading to an uproar among some faculty.
Richard Thomas, a classics professor, told The Times the changes are “deplorable, deeply regressive, a sign of the corporatization of the university.”
“This pay cut will be timed to come at precisely the moment when you are sick, stressed or facing the challenges of being a new parent,” said Mary Lewis, a professor of history, calling the cost increase the equivalent of a pay cut.
The university claims that modest cost increases are necessary, since health care plans are becoming more expensive.
That’s by design, according to a Harvard health economist who advised Obama on the federal health law.
In short, wealthier Americans would subsidize health insurance for those without coverage. At issue for Harvard is who should pay for it. Faculty opposing the cost-sharing measure believe Harvard should cover costs for faculty. The school wants faculty to pay more so that school funds can go towards education and other development programs.
“Harvard is a microcosm of what’s happening in health care in the country,” David Cutler, Obama’s former adviser, told The Times.
Cutler also said the backlash among faculty is surprising given that “Harvard was and remains a very generous employer.”
A Harvard provost who, as a professor at Stanford in 2009, sent a letter to Obama backing the cost-sharing portion of Obamacare, also defended the school’s move.
“Cost-sharing, if done appropriately, can slow the growth of health spending,” Alan Garber told The Times. “We need to be prepared for the very real possibility that health expenditure growth will take off again.”
In Harvard’s 2015 health insurance enrollment guide, the university claimed it “must respond to the national trend of rising health care costs, including some driven by health care reform.”
The school cited provisions in Obamacare which require employers to cover employees’ children up to the age of 26. Other cost-drivers include the so-called Cadillac tax on more expensive health insurance plans as well as required coverage of preventative services like mammograms and colonoscopies.
“It’s equivalent to taxing the sick,” Jerry Green, a Harvard economics professor told The Times. “I don’t think there’s any government in the world that would tax the sick.”
The complaints are also curious given Harvard faculty’s general support for Obama and his policies.
According to an analysis conducted by Campus Reform in 2012, 585 Harvard faculty donated to presidential candidates that year. Of those, 555 contributed a total of $400,000 to Obama.
Whereas the average plan on the Obamacare marketplace exchanges covers 70 percent of health care costs, Harvard’s mid-tier plan covers 91 percent of expenses.
Under their old plan, Harvard employees paid some of their premiums and out-of-pocket costs were low.
Now, their plan will have an annual deductible of $250 per individual and $750 per family. Faculty will also be required to pay coinsurance for hospitalization, surgery and some diagnostic tests.
A doctor’s office visit will run $20, and patients will be required to pay 10 percent of health care costs up to the $1,500 out-of-pocket limit.
All together, the cost to Harvard faculty are a fraction of what individuals in most other jobs and in the marketplace are required to pay.