WSU has agreed to cover next year’s increase in health insurance premiums for graduate students on assistantships.
The Affordable Care Act of 2010 mandates increased insurance coverage for graduate assistants but also increases the premiums they must pay. Results of a survey put out by the Counseling and Student Health Advisory Committee (CSHAC) showed that graduate assistants do not want to pay more or change their coverage.
“Because they didn’t want a change in coverage, the difference needed to be paid somehow,"said Cortney Hoch, a graduate assistant and CSHAC committee member."The expected result was that the students would have to pay the (about) $300 per year increase in cost for the next year,”
Instead, President Elson S. Floyd made the decision that the university will cover that cost for the next school year, she said.
Darin Watkins, WSU's executive director of external communications, said the funding will come from local funds, which are generated from things like WSU logo sales. This money will cover the rate increase for one year.
“Graduate students don’t make a lot of money so this is a small way for us to help keep them as whole as possible,"he said.
He added that graduate students are an integral part of the education process and the university is making it a priority to do all it can for them.
Due to the changes in coverage, previously placed spending caps have been eliminated, which means that if someone gets into a tragic accident, there is no spending limit and the insurance company is expected to cover the necessary treatments.
Women’s health coverage will also be added, including annual exams and birth control, Hoch said.
“The students are getting excellent student insurance compared to our nearby universities and we are getting this increase in coverage with no additional cost to the students,” Hoch said. “In these economic times, something like this happening is unheard of and greatly appreciated.”
The Graduate Student Assistant Medical and Dental Insurance Plan’s coverage is provided for graduate student assistants who pay tuition and fees for 10 or more credit hours, who have an assistantship stipend of at least 50 percent or qualify for a tuition fee reduction or waiver. The coverage is also available for full-time graduate researchers who are paid a stipend of at least $800 per month, are involved in research similar to that of a research assistant or are eligible for a tuition reduction fee waiver.
Spouses, domestic partners and children can also be added to the plan by request of the graduate student.
Pat Sturko, a CSHAC member and associate dean of WSU's Graduate School, told the Moscow-Pullman Daily News that it is important to maintain a strong benefit package in order to attract and retain graduate students. She said insurance will always be a pressing issue and this decision gives CSHAC more time to face rising costs.
Hoch also said the university offers a “regular” plan which covers professional students, undergraduates who opt-in, international students and graduate students not on assistantship.
Watkins said the decision to cover the rate increase will be revisited next year by the university and they will decide what to do from there.