Graduate Assembly passes bill regarding health insurance preferences

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At a special meeting Thursday, the Graduate Assembly passed a bill calling for provisions that guarantee coverage of dependents and inclusion of full transgender benefits in next year’s Student Health Insurance Plan.

Authored by GA President Jenna Kingkade and Rules Officer Jonathan Morris, the bill additionally calls for the continued use of a shared risk pool between undergraduate and graduate students.

The meeting was called for the specific purpose of passing the bill before the campus selects the insurance plan for the upcoming academic year within the next two weeks.

GA delegate and Student Health Insurance Advisory Committee member Marten Lohstroh said that the main priority for the students on the committee was to account for the needs of those previously marginalized in such discussions.

“Arguing for inclusion is not going to hit the general population that hard,” he said. “We stand for solidarity … and will not compromise our smaller communities.”

According to University Health Services spokesperson Kim LaPean, the campus is proud that its health insurance broker has been negotiating aggressively with insurance carriers to ensure that next year’s plan contains the preferences stated in the bill.

“We are really happy to be in a situation where we could consider something like a price parity,” LaPean said, referring to a guarantee that students will be charged the same rate as their dependents. “That’s a big leap.”

Most proposals being evaluated by the administration suggest that the use of separate risk pools for undergraduate and graduate students would provide a comparatively cheaper plan to undergraduates but would significantly increase the cost of graduate student premiums.

More than 50 percent of students who responded to a recent survey support the inclusion of a collective risk pool, though a significantly higher percentage of undergraduate responders preferred having separate risk pools as compared to graduate student responders.

“You can have ethical qualms about whether these costs should be covered by every student or not,” Lohstroh said. “On the other hand, it is much easier to broker significant additions when you do it with a large group of people. Smaller risk pools lead to more excluded people and bigger problems in the long run.”

The bill represents the latest development in a concerted effort of representatives of the student body to ascertain student preferences regarding SHIP after the controversial exclusion of dependent coverage last year.

“We have really tried to change the conversation from what can you do without to what do students need,” said Jackie Zaneri, GA member and head steward of the campus unit of a UC student-worker union.

ASUC Senator Will Morrow, who was present at the meeting, said a bill with similar provisions — including the recommendation of a shared risk pool — will be introduced in the ASUC Senate this week.

The deadline for the campus’s final decision on next year’s policy is Feb. 29.

Contact Ishaan Srivastava at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @ishaansriv.