Colleges face tough decisions about student health insurance coverage
After the University of Missouri was met with significant student backlash for dropping health insurance coverage for graduate students, universities in Georgia, Illinois and Michigan are juggling the same decision, building on a growing concerns from students regarding dwindling benefits.
Last week, student teachers at the University of Missouri walked out of class in protest of the school's decision to stop paying health insurance for graduate assistants, according to the St. Louis Dispatch. University of Missouri officials initially told students the school would no longer pay for health insurance because the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) classifies graduate teachers and research assistants as employees, and the Affordable Care Act bars employers from giving money to employees to purchase plans.
Since then, university officials have backtracked, opting to defer the decision until next year. However, graduate students still protested, citing concerns that the college will continue chipping away at their benefits.
The backlash in Missouri led the University of Georgia (UGA) to tread carefully in determining whether or not to continue offering insurance to graduate students. UGA told the Athens Banner-Herald that it is "carefully reviewing the implications of the Internal Revenue Service guidelines" before making a decision. Currently, UGA covers health insurance for graduate students through a private insurer, paying $847 per student in the fall, and $1,178 in the spring and summer semesters.
Elsewhere the University of Michigan elected to drop its sponsored health plan for students, telling Mlive.com that it will help students pick a policy on the open market. School officials told Mlive that students were having trouble paying the high premiums that amounted to as much as $2,800 a year, and were interested in different plan options. Michigan is expected to see a 6.5 percent rate hike for health insurance premiums in 2016. Last year, colleges like Cornell University planned to provide undergraduate student health plans through Medicaid, which offers access to a wider network of providers.
Earlier this month, Wheaton College elected to end healthcare coverage for more than 700 of its students, not because of IRS guidelines or premium hikes, but because the evangelical school disagrees with the ACA mandate to cover birth control, according to the Chicago Tribune.