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GSC grills Vaden director on dependents’ health insurance

JEAN YI/The Stanford Daily

Students discussed healthcare with Vaden Health Center Executive Director Jim Jacobs in a heated meeting of the Graduate Student Council (GSC) that ended with no real resolution. In particular, GSC members showed frustration with increasing health insurance premiums for spouses and two children, which are already set to increase by more than $100 a month for the 2019-20 school year.

Wednesday’s meeting was the penultimate of the current council, as incoming councillors will be sworn in on May 1.

Most of the meeting was consumed by a question-and-answer session with Jacobs. Just before the discussion, outgoing councillor and Latin American history Ph.D. candidate Mateo Carrillo distributed a handout titled “Grad Student Families Deserve Affordable Healthcare!”

According to the handout, graduate-student-dependent premiums for a spouse and children have nearly doubled in the last six years, from around $496 to $894 per month. Enrollment also dropped by around 40 percent, with many graduate student households finding the increase unsustainable. The handout pointed out that many of Stanford’s peer institutions, including Princeton, MIT and Yale, have lower premiums. The councillors expressed frustration about why Stanford would not further subsidize dependents’ insurance and lack of response from the administration.

Jacobs reiterated several times that he had no control over the pricing of health insurance premiums.

“We have a plan to have a plan … There is zero plan to not have a plan,” Jacobs said, noting that the details of the 2020-21 plan are still “in question.”

American history Ph.D. candidate Justine Modica repeatedly questioned Jacobs about what he was doing to make graduate dependents’ health insurance more affordable.

“If I was the person who, on my watch, was allowing that to happen, I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night,” she said.

The talk with Jacobs was extended by 10 minutes, but the issue was still not resolved by the time he left nearly an hour into the meeting. Along with affordability, Carrillo brought up his concern that health insurance for graduate students’ dependents would become a “death spiral” as more and more families left and costs continued to increase. 325 dependents are currently enrolled in the program, Jacobs said, a decrease of more than 200 enrollees from five years ago.

While the healthcare conversation dominated Wednesday’s meeting GSC members also discussed issues such as mosquitos in graduate residences, lack of clarity and delays in subletting apartments and questions about housing for coterming students.

GSC also discussed a proposed resolution expressing support for the Yale University community in its condemnation of excessive police force after Yale and Hamden police officers shot an unarmed black couple on April 16. The resolution was passed by the Undergraduate Senate on Tuesday. Councillors ultimately decided to wait until next Wednesday to decide on the resolution, since newly elected councillors would be sworn in at the conclusion of that day’s GSC meeting.

Contact Jean Yi at jeanyi ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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