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First year masters student Lori Boegershausen leads the cheers at a Graduate Employee Organization picketing on Friday.

Graduate students protest low health insurance subsidies outside university board meeting

The Ohio University Graduate Employee Organization (GEO) picketed the Board of Trustees meetings Friday outside Walter Hall to protest the below-average health care coverage OU provides graduate student workers.

OU covers 4 percent of graduate employee health insurance per year, while OU’s peer institutions on average cover 89 percent of health care coverage. That leaves graduate employees with a $40 subsidy per semester. GEO is asking OU to increase subsidies to meet the average of its peer institutions.

“A concern that has come up over and over again is the high costs of the student health insurance plan. The plan costs almost $2,000 a year for a student to insure her or himself,” Elliot Long, co-president of GEO, said. 

GEO is working to address issues in their report, which compares OU and peer institution compensations. Goals include increasing stipends and decreasing general fees, as the health insurance subsidy creates a “tremendous financial burden” on graduate employees. 

“A 4 percent subsidy is nothing,” Lori Boegershausen, GEO organizing committee member, said. "It is nothing but isolating to those who come from lower socio-economic backgrounds. For a university that prides itself in diversity and inclusion, they are not practicing what they preach."

Four members of the Graduate Employee Organization spoke at the picketing event and undergraduates joined the picket. Picketers repeatedly brought up how $80 in health insurance subsidies per year is not enough.

“It’s incredibly ableist of Ohio University to assume that the only people qualified and capable of completing a graduate degree are also able-bodied and neurotypical enough to not need to see a doctor regularly,” Charlotte Klimovich, GEO organizing committee member, said. 

She detailed how the lack of health insurance coverage makes it hard for graduate students with disabilities to attend OU. 

“Increasing the subsidy level would be a first step toward increasing the ability for students with disabilities to further their educational goals here and to fight back against the forces that are keeping them poor and powerless,” Klimovich said. 

In a meeting earlier this week, administrators met with GEO and Graduate Student Senate members about how the university’s budget affects graduate students. During that meeting, Vice President for Finance and Administration Deborah Shaffer said she does not believe an increase in subsidies to 89 percent is possible yet, according to a previous Post report.

“We should not need to take out student loans to pay for health insurance,” Long said.

There will be a $200 increase in how much graduate students will have to pay for health insurance next year due to renegotiations in the student health insurance contract, GEO Secretary Claire Eder said.

“We are working with Graduate Student Senate and administrators to try to talk a little bit about what we need as graduate students,” Eder said. “We’re just trying to make sure that subsidies will come quickly so that grad students don’t feel that extra burden of that 10 percent increase.”


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