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What you need to know about GSHIP and grad healthcare at UCSC

by UAW-QUAD
Most graduate students are enrolled in the Graduate Student Health Insurance Plan (GSHIP). According to the contract between the TA's union (UAW) and the university, 100% of the GSHIP fees are remitted for TAs. The benefits from the union contract are shared by all grad students, who get the same coverage when they buy in to GSHIP.

So what's the problem? Well, our union contract guarantees that the university will pay the costs of GSHIP, but it doesn't guarantee anything about what kind of care will be provided under GSHIP. In fact, UAW has no control over the coverage, premiums, or any other aspects of GSHIP. The Graduate Students Association (GSA) also has no control over the coverage, although they discuss proposed benefits packages with the administration. All decisions about the details of GSHIP are made by one man: Executive Vice Chancellor David Kliger.
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History of cutbacks and increased premiums

What have EVC Kliger and his predecessors done with GSHIP in recent years? Despite the certainty that medical costs will rise sharply every year, the EVC's budget proposals don't account for the rising costs for GSHIP. Consequently, we have to fight every year just to maintain the coverage we had before. And we don't always win. This is what has happened in the last five years:

  • GSHIP premiums have increased twice (2002 and 2005), for a combined increase of more than 50%.
  • Benefits were cut in 2003, including higher deductibles and copays, and lower coverage.

Now the university wants to cut our benefits again! In fact, they're trying to squeeze us from two directions at once. The UCSC administration is pressuring GSA to accept cuts in our benefits. And the statewide administration is trying to eliminate the 100% fee remissions for TAs. They have proposed fixing a dollar amount of coverage that the university will pay, leaving increases to be paid out of pocket by TAs. Since medical costs increase 10% - 15% every year, this would make us pay steadily increasing amounts just to maintain the same level of coverage.

Our message for the university

Health care cuts are unacceptable! We are working just as hard this year as we did last year -- why should we have less protection in case of illness or injury? Undercutting our healthcare also undermines our working conditions, violating the spirit of our union protections. It's also contrary to our role in providing a high-quality education to undergraduates. Weaker health care has a direct negative impact on our work.

Furthermore, we object to the undemocratic structure of GSHIP decision-making at UCSC. Our health care affects many parties on campus: graduate students most directly; as well as the university who pays for it, undergraduates who rely on TAs, and other people in the campus community. Decisions about GSHIP should be made through a process that takes account of the opinions of each of these groups, searching for a solution that benefits those most directly concerned, and the community generally.

We need democracy and accountability

But instead of a system like that, we have an arrangement that puts all decision-making power in the hands of one man. Rising medical costs are a reality that should be acknowledged and planned for in university budgeting. But the EVC's budget doesn't take this into account, with the result that we face cuts in benefits or rising premiums almost every year. This makes it impossible to discuss the essential additional benefits that we need added to our health care, including better coverage for dependents and coverage for transgender health care.

Meanwhile, UC administrators have found plenty of money for huge executive salaries, including bonuses and benefits in violation of the universty's own policies. As reported here, the San Francisco Chronicle recently exposed millions of dollars in UC executive bonuses and perks that violated UC regulations and were kept hidden from the public.

And even when the California legislature has increased the UC budget with money earmarked for employee salaries and benefits, UC has refused to release the money. The lecturers' union, UC-AFT, has written a report (available here) documenting how the university has withheld funds that were specifically designated for "cost of living allowances" for other UC employees. This is the natural outcome of a system where an executive minority has complete power over the working majority.

We need to change the system that decides on GSHIP benefits, bringing democracy and accountability to the process. And until then, we need to tell EVC Kliger and the university administration: Hands off our healthcare! Expand healthcare, don't cut it!

What you can do to defend our healthcare

Email the administration and let them know how you feel.

Rally in support of grad student health care
Thursday, May 17
11:30 a.m. @ Kerr Hall
Bring thermometers, face masks, and other props
Let UC know we're sick of attacks on our health care!

Tell us your story:
Is healthcare important to you? Have you had experiences where GSHIP helped you, or where it wasn't enough?
We are collecting testimonials from to help show UC why we need to expand healthcare instead of cutting it.
Contact us at the address below to share your story.
(Any testimonials can be kept anonymous when we present them to UC)

Brought to you by UAW Members for Quality Education and Democracy (UAW-QUAD)
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