Affordable Care Act could put strain on university department budgets

Affordable Care Act could put strain on university department budgets

Laney Ruckstuhl

The Affordable Care Act could cost Appalachian State University about $1 million in spending to provide health insurance for non-permanent employees who work more than 30 hours per week or 130 hours per month, taking effect January 2015, Appalachian Budget Director Betsy Payne said.

The act will cost the UNC system in its entirety up to $47 million. Payne said the $1 million estimate could fluctuate, depending on what type of medical plan is offered to the temporary employees.

Payne said the university has not yet received any information regarding whether or not they will receive additional funding from the state in order to make up for the new costs.

The budgets of individual departments would be strained by the Affordable Care Act if the state does not provide additional funding. Although the departments would have discretion,

Payne said she believes that jobs would be preserved as much as possible.

“It would be up to each individual [department] to determine how the area would handle it,” Payne said. “In all the years that I have been here, it has been uppermost to protect jobs, especially student jobs.”

The plan must be applied to adjunct faculty, students and temporary non-students who do not have health insurance. Currently, about 1,475 employees at Appalachian will fall into this category.

But if an employee is already covered by their own health insurance, the university is not required to provide it.

“Right now, it is all over the board as to how it is going to end up,” Payne said. “It’s hard to gauge because it’s not effective until 2015.”

The UNC system’s budget has been declining steadily in recent years, so any additional costs need to be considered, she said.

The current 2014-15 budget proposal for the UNC system is $70 million less than was expended for the 2013-14 fiscal year.

“A million dollars is a million dollars, that’s definitely something you don’t sneeze at,” Payne said.

Payne said that if the state does not allow the school additional funding, the university’s first action would be to use existing benefit funds to help cover the additional costs.

Story: Laney Ruckstuhl, Assistant News Editor