A Personal Account of an Adjunct’s Peril

Hello and welcome to the Spring Semester! I hope you were fortunate enough to have your class run. Last semester, one of my courses was canceled due to low enrollment. It looked like that would happen again this spring, but the night class filled at the last minute. Whew!
I teach computer graphics at Tunxis. I’ve been teaching since 2006. Back then, I was married and not as dependent on my teaching income. My graphic design business was thriving and my husband worked. Now that I’m divorced, it’s different. I am well aware what it’s like to have half your income disappear. It’s a sick feeling. Losing income as well as contributions to your retirement plan is scary. Especially when you’re over 60.
Add the burden of purchasing health insurance as an individual over 60. That is something many of our full time colleagues haven’t thought about. When married, I didn’t give it much thought either. My former husband worked for the State and I enjoyed exceptional health coverage with little thought to those who didn’t.
Since the divorce, I’ve been on COBRA paying $978 per month for BCBS through the state. Last semester, my take home pay for one course was $1100/month. Guess where my adjunct income went? Good thing I had savings, freelance work, and a weekly yoga class to teach.
Knowing COBRA ends March 1st, I looked for health coverage during open enrollment. And I learned the Affordable Care Act is not very affordable!Premiums for plans with $5000 – $10,000 deductibles (and 80/20 co-pays) were over $700 per month. What an eye opening experience! Looking at all the available plans made me wonder if purchasing insurance through Tunxis would be a better deal. So I contacted the college. Maria Drwiega in payroll was very helpful and provided info on plans and costs. The BCBS POE coverage I had on COBRA would cost about the same as the high deductible polices on the open market – but without the high deductibles! My monthly insurance cost will be about $730 per month. Premiums are not deducted from pay, but paid by the employee. I will have to go on COBRA between semesters at a slightly higher cost. But keeping the same insurance is worth it.
So fellow adjuncts – if you find yourself needing health insurance, do yourself a favor and contact your college.  As adjuncts, we are entitled to purchase group health insurance through the state. And parents, you can also insure your dependents. When you compare what you get as a state employee to what an individual can purchase on the open market, it’s a no brainer! (In my opinion.)
For many, 2016 was a tough year. I’m not one for whining and complaining. I believe in taking action. I hope you will get involved this year and support your union. We need your input and action more than ever before. Try to attend Higher Ed day at the State Capitol this Thursday, January 26. Many colleges are sponsoring buses. There will be a rally at noon with other events throughout the day. Click here for more info.
There’s no better time than now to make your choices heard! Make it a great semester and be the change you wish to see.
Robyn Brooks
4Cs VP Part Timers

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