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Students protest high Ohio U health insurance costs at Graduate Senate

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GSS met Tuesday night to discuss healthcare and its upcoming election. Photo by Eric Boll.

Dozens of protesters crowded into the Graduate Student Senate chambers Tuesday night to oppose an existing university policy that requires graduate students to pay for health insurance.

UnitedHealthcare, the insurance company Ohio U is partnered with, sent Dale Burns, a senior vice president, and Anna Casteel, the university student health insurance administrator, to answer questions from the body.

Despite attempts to clarify information, some students felt their questions went unanswered.

Graduate students who can afford it, are permitted to purchase health insurance plans from providers other than UnitedHealthcare, but all must be insured.

A few dissatisfied students held up signs in protest, all of which had #OUInsuranceHike written on them. Others complained about a hike in health care costs, a lack of coverage and a survey put out by the university about its health insurance program.

 

Students hold up signs voicing their displeasure with the current health insurance. Photo by Eric Boll.
Students hold up signs voicing their displeasure with the current health insurance. Photo by Eric Boll.

Brett Fredericksen, a representative for the environmental and plant biology department, said only 357 students responded to the survey. Of those responses, he said, less than half were from graduate students.

Fredericksen added that slightly over half of the respondents indicated they would be willing to pay more for a higher-quality health insurance plan.

International Student Commissioner Viktoria Marinova said that many of the protesters were international students, who “… are required to have health insurance at the university” because of “… criteria set by the university.”

“I think a lot of international students feel like they are being systematically marginalized by this insurance,” Marinova told The New Political. 

Marinova said that during her first year at Ohio U, she was paying $988 for health insurance per semester. Now, Marinova pays about $1,400 per semester.

The discussion of graduate student health insurance ran over its allotted time and was adjourned by GSS President Dareen Tadros. 

The body then held its executive election debates, which were previously delayed. Presidential candidates Kaelyn Ferris and Uchenna Okwara took the stage alongside vice presidential candidates Brett Fredericksen and Amal Shimir.

Amid Vahedi will be running an uncontested campaign for treasurer of the body. 

Vahedi, Fredricksen and Ferris are running a joint ticket campaign focused on tackling problems related to graduate student health insurance and stipend pay.

Okwara is running on a platform based around increasing the visibility of GSS around campus and expanding the involvement of graduate students in GSS.

Shimir is building her campaign around exploring issues facing graduate students like mental health issues and job opportunities.

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