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Grad. Student Union debate health insurance subsidies

Amanda Michaels | Wednesday, November 12, 2003

In the midst of a vicious flu season, the Graduate Student Union debate focused on insurance issues, specifically increasing rates and University subsidies.

John Young, chairman of the health care committee, said that it was “not good news” on the insurance front, as Ann Kleva, director of health services, is ready to begin the process on bidding on insurance rates for next year.

This process entails specifying desired benefits to the small group of companies still in the business of providing student insurance, and accepting “the lowest bid with the highest benefits,” said Young.

Currently, the rate of insurance for graduate students on MegaLife, the University’s health insurance plan, is $767 per year – over $1 million when the 1,500 students on the plan are taken in total. In 2002-03, MegaLife paid almost $800,000 in medical costs, creating an 82 percent loss rate. Numbers for spousal insurance were similar, while the loss rate for dependent insurance was over 1000 percent – an astounding number, considering only 10 families with children are covered by MegaLife, members said.

“[The insurance companies] will look at these numbers and say the rates will go up,” said Young. “The cost of insurance is going to go up substantially next year, I can guarantee that.”

An added issue with the rate hike is the fact that Kleva is negotiating for four benefits not currently covered by MegaLife. These include an increase in outpatient lab coverage to $2,000, the coverage of all surgical procedures made through the same incision, the coverage of oral allergy medication, and national PPO coverage for those students traveling outside the primary PPO area. Though no concrete decisions were made, the GSU agreed that, while all four benefits were important, one could be discarded if it raised the rate significantly.

In a related subject, GSU president Martiqua Post reported from the Graduate Council that the University is granting $200,000 to subsidize insurance costs this year, $250,000 for next year, and $300,000 for the year after that. However, who the subsidies will go to has not been decided.

“The question is, should the money go to every graduate student, no matter the insurance plan, or just to those 65 percent on MegaLife?” Post asked. “If we narrowed it down to just those on MegaLife with a stipend by the graduate school – the subsidy would be written into outside grants – it would be $350 per student. If we include everyone else, it would be significantly less.”

While those not covered by the University insurance called limiting the subsidy unfair, academic affairs committee chairman Tim Dale said, “The logistics of giving everyone a subsidy is, to say the least, difficult. We have to remember that the University does have a long-term goal of 100 percent coverage, but we just have to take small steps to get there.”

In other GSU news:

– The GSU concession stand at the Navy game made over $338, but it was recommended that next year’s stand should have higher prices and more drinks.

– Post and GSU co-vice president Belinda Byrne attended the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students (NAGPS) Conference last week in Washington, D.C., where they lobbied on Capitol Hill for tax-free stipends.