|Protesters on Tuesday, June 14|
Apparently our GAs get rather worse coverage than those at SIUE. Indeed, GAs here lack many of the protections the federal government will soon guarantee for all Americans in health care plans (including pre-existing conditions), but as SIUC is among the 1% of universities to opt for a "self-insured" approach, it escapes federal or state regulation, and won't have to improve the status of health insurance here unless it agrees to do so, presumably at the bargaining table.
Kristi Brownfield, GAU VP for communications and SIUC Unions United webmaster extraordinaire, provides fuller coverage over on the United website. She includes a link to an excel spreadsheet comparing the SIUC plan with those for GAs at peer institutions; the sheet makes it clear that SIUC is one of the few Illinois public universities to offer no option (even at a considerable extra fee) for spouses, children, or domestic partners, or to offer no prescription drug coverage (SIUC students must pay "cost" for drugs, which can mean a massive expense for those who require prescription drugs to meet chronic conditions).
One of the more interesting wrinkles in this story were tales of GAs from foreign countries who return home to their home countries--India and Honduras were the two mentioned--as they can better afford healthcare there as citizens than they can as student employees in the US, "the richest nation in the world". When such students return home (at considerable expense, of course), they must leave behind their classes (both those they take and those they teach) and thus disrupt their own education and those of their students. This is the sort of unintended expense we end up with by trying to go cheap on health care.
Graduate students don't expect to make much money teaching in graduate school. But they aren't healthy young kids who can get by with scanty student insurance as they are covered by their parents' plans if something goes wrong (of course many of our undergraduates also don't fit this "traditional" student model, but that's another issue). Our GAs are young adults with positions of considerable responsibility: this university couldn't function without them. They deserve health care decent enough to allow them to function and to free them from the worry that any major illness will leave them permanently impoverished.