Correction appended.

For graduate students like Maria Funcheon, paying for Ohio University's health insurance with a $40 subsidy from OU can be costly. The Graduate Employee Organization is trying to fix that.

On the current plan, Funcheon is running out of one of her migraine medications and doesn't know if she can replace it. Funcheon takes migraine medicine that works for her, but her current university insurance doesn't cover the medication, forcing her to pay $1,000 out-of-pocket, she said.

Funcheon said her only other option is going to the emergency room or urgent care and receiving an injection that costs up to $150. This semester, she contacted her professors about her migraines and said she may be unable to attend some classes. 

“I don’t know if I’m going to have to miss class more or have to miss my internship more … because the insurance that I have to pay for through the school is not adequate to cover my needs,” Funcheon said.

OU Graduate Employee Organization, or GEO, launched a campaign Saturday to increase health insurance subsidies for graduate student employees.

The organization released a report Sept. 15 comparing OU to 10 similar institutions. The average health insurance subsidy for those universities is 89 percent, while OU only subsidizes 4 percent of its required student insurance. 

GEO also released a follow-up report comparing OU to other Ohio public universities. That report shows the average health insurance subsidy at other Ohio public universities is about 62 percent, which is still significantly higher than OU’s. 

Health insurance is mandatory for all OU students, but they can submit a waiver proving they already have coverage. International students do not have that option, according to a previous Post report

Elliot Long, co-president of GEO, said the organization chose to focus on subsidies this Spring Semester because it affects all graduate students, and members believe there’s a real need to address it.

The organization launched its social media campaign using the hashtag #BeAverageOU to share the stories of graduate students and how they struggle to pay for their health insurance. 

“We have that social media campaign, we’ve been flyering, we’re going to be speaking at the Student Senate this Wednesday,” Long said. “We’re going to try to approach more administrators with the power to address this issue.”

Vice President for Student Affairs and interim Chief Diversity Officer Jason Pina said graduate students have asked for increased health insurance subsidies in the past. Pina said he has met with graduate students about insurance. 

“We are going through a process for health insurance right now and making sure people are aware of that process,” Pina said. “So we’re looking at it.”

Lori Boegershausen, a master’s student studying international development, said she unexpectedly had to pay for OU’s health insurance plan after her mother lost her coverage last month. If the university subsidized at the average of its peer institutions, Boegershausen said she wouldn’t have had to pay such a “detrimental” cost. 

Boegershausen said GEO is considering hosting a demonstration outside of the Board of Trustees meeting in March if the group's concerns aren’t heard. 

“The quantitative data should be enough, yet we still have to sit here and share personal stories from each of us … because although the data’s out there, no one’s paying attention to it,” Boegershausen said. “There’s a time where bureaucracy doesn’t do it, and we have to take democracy into our own hands and demand our needs and our wants. And that’s what GEO is doing.”


Correction: A previous version of this report and graphic misstated the percent of insurance OU subsidizes. The article and graphic have been updated to reflect the most accurate information. 

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