April 20-26, 2001
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U.Va. to propose health insurance subsidy for its graduate assistants

Staff Report

University administrators will recommend a $900 annual subsidy next year for nearly 2,000
graduate students to help cover the cost of their health insurance. U.Va.’s Board of Visitors will consider the proposal along with the 2001-02 budget at its June 15-16 meeting.

The subsidy would apply to teaching and research assistants who earn at least $5,000 per year for their academic work and to other graduate students whose fellowships are $5,000 or above. This is close to 60 percent of the graduate students in engineering, architecture, nursing, basic medical sciences, education and arts & sciences.

“I am delighted that we may be able to offer this benefit to our graduate assistants,” said Vice President and Provost Peter W. Low. “Members of my staff have been working with the deans, graduate-student representatives and others for nearly a year to find a way to address this issue. The approach they have developed is an important step in our efforts to deal with the under-funding of our graduate programs.”

“The University’s proposal is welcome news to graduate students,” said Patrick J. McGuinn, president of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences Student Council. “We hope the Board of Visitors will approve the proposal because the astronomical increases in insurance premiums in recent years have created a financial and health care crisis for graduate students,” he said.

The $900 stipend would cover next year’s estimated cost of health insurance for a single student in the basic (White) plan offered by QualChoice through Student Health. Alternatively, graduate students could apply the stipend toward the expanded-benefit Orange plan or family coverage, if they choose.

The White plan for one individual, which costs $774 this year, will be $915 next year. The Orange plan will rise from $1,409 to $2,263. Both plans have additional rates to cover spouses and children. The two plans have similar benefits, except that the Orange plan has lower out-of-pocket payments and allows for 45 mental health visits per year.

QualChoice is raising the rates because of an increased number of claims, especially from those in the Orange plan, according to Student Health administrator Alison Montgomery. A member of the committee on student health, she said student representatives, with feedback from students, opted to maintain both plans. Contraceptive coverage will be added next year.

Low said the annual cost to U.Va. would be approximately $1.8 million, which would come from earnings on the University’s unrestricted endowment, indirect cost recoveries from research grants, tuition and fellowship funds.


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