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Group debates insurance

Paul Spadafora | Thursday, March 17, 2005

Concerns over the rising costs of University-sponsored health insurance premiums and their effects on graduate students were the principal focus of the Graduate Student Union meeting Wednesday.

In the most recent change to the current health insurance policy, graduate student premiums have been raised to $1179 per year, an 18 percent increase from last year’s premium of $999 per year.

GSU president John Young described the premium increase as a response by Mega Health Insurance to increased usage of the plan in the last year.

This year, graduate students on the plan have filed approximately $637,000 dollars in claims, as opposed to the 2003-2004 estimates of $367,000.

“As of last month, our utilization of the plan has gone up substantially,” Young said. “Because of the increase in usage, Mega [Health Insurance] has increased the premium.”

The GSU was presented with several options in response to the price increase. Two of the proposed options, an increase in deductible payments to $250 dollars per visit and a decrease in pharmaceutical coverage, were met with misgivings by the GSU.

The deductible increase, while reducing the premium five percent from the anticipated increase, was viewed as an impractical solution because of the possible detriment to the policy’s benefits.

GSU council member Misty Schieberle said the unintended effect of reducing the premium would be that the benefits currently held by policyholders would never be recoverable.

“If we make this change, we will never be able to get our benefits back.” Schieberle said.

The proposed reduction in pharmacy benefits was also considered to be ineffective by the council. Young said the smallest reduction in benefits, $1500 per year, would adversely affect many students in the graduate school.

“Fifty-nine students are currently covered for greater than $1500 dollars in medication per year,” Young said. “… where this really hurts people is that three of the 59 pay over $1500 per month for medication.”

The GSU voted unanimously to recommend accepting the full 18 percent increase as opposed to a deductible increase or pharmaceutical benefit decrease. The vote itself does not determine University policy towards health care, but Young said the graduate school is likely to listen to the concerns of the GSU.

“Last year, [the graduate school] followed the recommendation of the GSU… especially if we are unanimous, they will take our opinion into consideration.”

In other GSU news:

uYoung re-quested that graduate students interested in being part of the GSU consider assembling a ticket to run for the 2005-2006 GSU administration. Interested parties may file nominations until March 22.