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International students demanded answers to health insurance cost hike

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Dale Burns at GSS's Tuesday meeting. Photo by Eric Boll.

International students gathered during Student Senate’s meeting Wednesday to denounce on-going Ohio University health insurance price hikes, which they claim the university has not been transparent about.

Dale Burns, senior vice president of UnitedHealthcare, Ohio U’s health insurance provider, began the meeting by detailing changes in students’ health care in the upcoming 2020-2021 academic year. The changes will affect both undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in UnitedHealthcare.

The modifications include a virtual medical and mental health care system that would give students easier access to health care by providing new avenues to seek medical assistance as needed, Burns said.

However, a proposed 12.8% health insurance rate increase will accompany these changes, along with changes to annual deductibles — the amount of money that a patient would have to pay before their insurer covers the remainder.

Dozens of protesters crowded Tuesday night’s Graduate Student Senate meeting to oppose a university policy that requires graduate students to purchase health care.

The international students in attendance at Student Senate charged that the university is not being transparent about health insurance costs and asked for solutions to issues international students face.

These students would like Ohio U to provide alternatives to UnitedHealthcare. Some claim that the university makes it difficult for international students to opt out of its insurance, said Suleyman Gurbanov, an international graduate student.

“I don’t see any justification for all the criteria required to opt-out of the insurance,” Gurbanov said. “It looks like the system was constructed for international students to not have any other options but to enroll into UnitedHealthcare.“ 

The changes imposed a 29% rate increase during the spring 2019 semester on international students’ health insurance, taking it from a $990 per semester per person rate to $1,400 per semester, said Mary-Magdalene Chumbow, another international graduate student.

No solutions have been brought into consideration, but the student health insurance committee will meet soon to discuss concerns and possible solutions or compromises, Student Senate President Lydia Ramlo said.

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