Report: Duke Committee Makes Recommendations for Future of Student Health Insurance

 DGSU members attended a recent SHIAC meeting to voice concerns about changes to Duke's health insurance plan.

DGSU members attended a recent SHIAC meeting to voice concerns about changes to Duke's health insurance plan.

Members of DGSU attended a meeting of the Student Health Insurance Advisory Committee (SHIAC) last Friday to ensure that important health insurance benefits for graduate students would not be cut. SHIAC discussed three proposed changes to the Duke Student Health Insurance plan.

The first change to come under consideration was the addition of a deductible—of either $250, $500 or $750—to the health insurance plan. A deductible would increase the amount of health care costs paid directly by individuals on the plan, in addition to co-pays for medical visits and co-insurance payments for medical treatments.

Several members of the committee noted that including a deductible would add an additional obstacle for students in need of healthcare and would especially affect student access to mental healthcare. One committee member, who was associated with Duke CAPS, noted that increasing the costs that students would have to pay out of their own pocket might encourage students to view certain healthcare, especially for mental health, as optional.

The committee also considered making changes to the benefits of the current health insurance plan. Most of the conversation focused on the possibility of removing dependent care from the plan, which would lead to significant savings in the plan’s cost liability. A GPSC student representative to SHIAC voiced graduate student opposition to removing dependent care, saying that doing so would be appalling. Another member of the committee also spoke against removing dependent care, noting that Duke’s peer institutions are making decisions to increase support for dependent coverage through their health insurance plans.

Much of the meeting focused on how much plan premiums would need to increase in order to account for the rising costs of healthcare as well as an increase in claims made through the plan. DGSU members and GPSC representatives in attendance spoke about the massive burden these costs would pose to graduate and professional students and argued that Duke University should commit more funds to graduate education in order to make these costs more manageable.

After further discussion, SHIAC came to a consensus. The Committee’s recommendation was to increase premiums to $3,500 per year (a 20% increase from current premiums), to keep the plan without a deductible, and to maintain the plan’s current benefits, including dependent care and out-of-network coverage. The SHIAC recommendation also includes a request that the university increase funding for graduate and professional students in order to cover these rising costs.

The recommendation will be passed on to Larry Moneta, Duke’s Vice President of Student Affairs, who is expected to make a final decision on the proposal in the next few weeks. DGSU will work to ensure that SHIAC’s recommendation is followed and that important health insurance benefits are protected. Also, DGSU is currently circulating a petition that calls on the University to raise pay and increase funding for Graduate Student Workers. Please click this link to sign the petition!

Chris Huebner