Penn State graduate students to rally against health care cost increases

mdawson@centredaily.comApril 2, 2014 

— Penn State graduate students upset over a possible increase in costs for their university health insurance will hold a rally Thursday on the Old Main lawn to draw attention to their cause.

The students will gather from 1 to 4 p.m. to air concerns over the health care changes that would take effect this summer. Organizers said they’ll have a megaphone on hand that anyone can use to address the crowd.

The students will march to the Old Main lawn from two different spots — the Allen Street gates and University Health Services — starting at 12:30 p.m.

Penn State recently announced the proposed changes, which the administration said are necessary under the federal Affordable Care Act. Here are some of the proposed provisions for graduate students’ health care plans:

•  a 30 percent increase in premiums;

•  a $250 individual deductible (up from $75) and $500 family annual deductible (increased from $225);

•  90 percent coverage in-network up to an in-network, out-of-pocket maximum of $1,350 per individual and $2,700 for family coverage;

• Premiums of $1,350 per individual and $2,700 for family coverage; and

•  an emergency room co-pay of $150 (waived if the individual is admitted to the hospital).

Graduate students are typically paid stipends. Amounts vary depending on the academic department that houses the student.

Students said many are paid a stipend less than $17,000 and that the proposed changes to their health care plans would have devastating financial effects on them and their families.

Penn State spokeswoman Annemarie Mountz said the university is not in control of the insurance plan changes and that officials are working to figure out how to offset the increases for premium costs.

The university has said it would look to increase the students’ stipends 2 or 3 percent, depending on the availability of funding from the state. It also plans to increase the amount it contributes toward the cost of premiums by at least 5 percent.

A task force is being established to study the issue, and its membership will include representatives from the undergraduate and graduate student organizations in addition to the administrative offices.

Mountz said the task force will have its recommendations by July 1.

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