Harvard professors are up in arms after learning they will have to pay more towards their healthcare costs under Obamacare which many of them have championed, The New York Times reports
The Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the center of the venerable institution, has voted overwhelmingly to fight changes that would force them, along with thousands of other Harvard employees, to pay more for their health benefits.
“Harvard is a microcosm of what’s happening in healthcare in the country,” said David Cutler, a health economist at the university who was an adviser during President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign.
Until the changes, Harvard professors have managed to escape the added costs that other employers have passed on to their employees, the Times reported, while noting that this is why the protest has been all the more unusual.
“Harvard was and remains a very generous employer.” Cutler said of the 378-year-old private Ivy League university in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Richard Thomas, a Harvard professor of classics and a leading authority worldwide on Virgil, slammed the higher costs, saying they are “deplorable, deeply regressive, a sign of the corporatization of the university.”
Mary Lewis, a professor specializing in modern French history, has been one of the leaders at the arts and sciences faculty opposing the changes in benefits, which she called the equivalent of a salary reduction.
“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,” Lewis said.
And Mary Waters, a professor of sociology, said, “It seems that Harvard is trying to save money by shifting costs to sick people. I don’t understand why a university with Harvard’s incredible resources would do this. What is the crisis?”
Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust explained in a letter to the faculty that the shift in healthcare benefits had been recommended by some of the university’s own health policy experts.
However, Gilpin admitted that the changes have been “causing distress” and had “generated anxiety” around campus, according to the Times
But she insisted that the move was vital because the university’s health benefit costs were growing faster than operating revenues and staff salaries, and they were threatening the funding of such priorities as teaching, research and student aid.
Dr. Barbara McNeil, the head of the health care policy department at Harvard Medical School and a member of the benefits committee, also defended the changes, saying, “Harvard employees want access to everything. They don’t want to be restricted in what institutions they can get care from.”
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