ACA’s Definition of “Full-Time Employee”: 10 Hours Makes a Difference to Adjunct Professors


By: Fred Hughes, Member of the Society for Human Resource Management


While the premise of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was to assist American employees with gaining health care coverage by defining full-time employment as working an average of 30 hours a week, it has actually hurt the people it intended to help. 

The case in point I refer to is that of the status of adjunct faculty/instructors at colleges and universities. In my particular case, the ACA’s definition of a full time employee has resulted in my employer’s new policy to limit the number of classes an adjunct professor can teach so that the classes add up to under 30 hours.

Prior to the ACA’s definition, I could teach three classes in as many of the Community Colleges in the State of Alabama as I wished. Today, I am only allowed to teach a maximum of four classes statewide and only three at any one institution. The rationale that has been offered is that the Community College System cannot afford to offer health insurance to part-time faculty.  

The ACA’s definition of full time has resulted in a reduction of my income by over half given the fact that previously I could teach up to three classes at any Community College in the State.  This exacerbates my already distressing condition of underemployment. Having lost my full-time administrative job in 2009, I have come to rely on adjunct teaching as my full-time employment income and livelihood. In addition, I do not qualify for any subsidy under the ACA and have just been notified that my individual health insurance policy plan is being discontinued. To make matters worse, my individual coverage as a single male non-smoker has gone from a BCBS Platinum plan at $726.70 per month to a lesser plan (because BCBS no longer offers the Platinum plan) to BCBS Silver at $790.29.  This is an 8.8% increase for less coverage.

To say the least, I feel like I’m caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place.

There are two legislative proposals that have been introduced in Congress that would provide financial security and stability to many hardworking Americans by restoring the traditional definition of a full-time employee. Specifically, the bills propose to modify the ACA definition of full-time employee to an employee who averages 40 hours of service a week, instead of 30. This change would be beneficial to me since it would allow me to teach more classes at one institution, increase my income and provide me with the means to afford to purchase an individual health insurance plan…

After all, isn’t that the whole point of health care reform - to provide all Americans with access to affordable health care coverage? 


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