While we wait for the results in the Great House Republican Insurgency of 2015 (John Boehner looks to have dialed up the orange in his spray tan just for this occasion), how about a little unabashed schadenfreude?

The faculty of Harvard University, who contributed greatly to the ideas theoretically embodied in the Affordable Care Act, have a Harvard-sponsored health-care plan, so they were spared the effects of having to choose from the Obamacare marketplace. But that Harvard-sponsored health-care plan could only be shielded from the nationwide trend of rising health-care costs for so long. And now, the end is near. And they face the final curtain. And despite an ineffective faculty vote aimed at resisting the dastardly corporate influences now clearly infiltrating their beloved institution, Harvard professors will have to pay more for their plans.

For years, Harvard’s experts on health economics and policy have advised presidents and Congress on how to provide health benefits to the nation at a reasonable cost. But those remedies will now be applied to the Harvard faculty, and the professors are in an uproar.

Members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the heart of the 378-year-old university, voted overwhelmingly in November to oppose changes that would require them and thousands of other Harvard employees to pay more for health care. The university says the increases are in part a result of the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act, which many Harvard professors championed.

The faculty vote came too late to stop the cost increases from taking effect this month, and the anger on campus remains focused on questions that are agitating many workplaces: How should the burden of health costs be shared by employers and employees? If employees have to bear more of the cost, will they skimp on medically necessary care, curtail the use of less valuable services, or both?

Oddly, Harvard’s healthcare premiums are actually going down, but out of pocket costs are going up. But not that far up. The plans still have a $250 deductible and an out-of-pocket maximum of $1500, which only kicks in if the insurance holder has a major procedure for which they are now required to pay 10 percent of the cost. Unlike before, Harvard’s employees will also now have to plunk down a $20 bill in order to see a doctor for preventative care. And as you are picking yourself up off the fainting couch for having collapsed due to the utter stress of it all, you should note that the average salary for a Harvard professor is around $200,000. 

Fortunately, as Mary Katherine Ham notes, there is a principled outcry on campus, being led by one of the world’s foremost experts on Virgil, a professor of sociology and a woman who specializes in the history of modern France, who finds the changes in policy “regressive,” symbolic of the corporatization of higher education, and tantamount to a paycut. According to Harvard’s president, the anxiety over such a change is widespread and the “distress” is palatable. The head of the School of Public Health, meanwhile, acknowledges that the changes have come to Harvard much later than to most Americans. But of course, Harvard matters more because they’re smarter. And this is an outrage.

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