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Committee meets April 18
Grad student assistant insurance hike covered for a year
Monday, Apr. 16, 2012
By James Tinney, WSU News
PULLMAN, Wash. - Graduate students on assistantships at Washington State University will not have to pay increased premiums for health coverage next year because of an allocation by President Elson S. Floyd to cover those costs for one year.
Christina Low, a graduate student in psychology who chaired the Counseling and Student Health Advisory Committee, which made recommendations on the issue, said the students on the committee were happy about the president’s action to control health insurance costs.
"We are all very aware of the budget crisis, but we also realize that a large increase in insurance costs would be a huge burden to graduate students on tight budgets,” Low said.
Bruce Wright, executive director of WSU Health and Wellness Services, said that to comply with the federal Affordable Care Act, the university health plan had to include additional mandated benefits, which resulted in increased costs. The plan also offers benefits that are not mandated, Wright said, including vision and dental coverage.
A survey of 1,753 students on assistantships found that the students generally wanted to maintain benefits included in the health plan that are not mandated, including vision and dental coverage. Low said most students who responded put a higher priority on retaining existing benefits than on limiting costs.
Adding mandated coverage to the existing plan would mean that insurance payments for students enrolled in the GSA plan would increase $284 per year to cover inflation and the new services.
Floyd said WSU recognized that cost would be a considerable burden for graduate students at a time when the university is seeking to increase graduate enrollment.
"We are pleased we have been able to find funds to cover these costs for the upcoming year,” he said. "While we recognize that this is not a long-term solution, it will provide us with an opportunity to explore ways that we might be able to control or offset those costs in the future.”
The university is planning to seek funding in its 2013-15 biennial budget to cover cost increases for graduate student insurance.
The university also offers a regular student insurance plan. About half of the enrollees in that plan are international students who are required to purchase insurance when they study in the U.S.
Domestic undergraduate students also may purchase coverage through the plan, but most students retain coverage under their parents’ health care plans instead.
Premiums in that plan are expected to rise $300 per year in the next academic year; those increases will not be offset by a one-time allocation.
The Counseling and Student Health Advisory Committee will discuss results of its recommendations at its regular monthly meeting to be held noon-1 p.m. Wednesday, April 18, at the BKA conference room on the ground floor of the Health and Wellness Services building.
For more information on the insurance plans offered by WSU, visit the Health and Wellness webpage.