MU graduate students come together after losing insurance subsidies
COLUMBIA - University of Missouri graduate students and leaders are all looking for solutions on how to make up for lost health insurance subsidies.
Following MU's decision to drop its graduate students' health insurance subsidies because of legal conflicts with the Affordable Care Act, more than 500 graduate students gathered on campus Monday to express their concerns and outrage while discussing potential long-term solutions.
In response, MU Chancellor Bowen Loftin announced on his website that he assigned Dean Kristofer Hagglund of the School of Health Professions to chair a task force to find long-term solutions for graduate students.
Some students at the forum discussed possibly 'walking out' if the university doesn't find an alternative method of funding the health care aid they said they were promised.
Students said they provide many vital services through the graduate program such as teaching that they will leverage if the university does not try to find a solution.
Other students said they are trying to push for changes in state and federal laws to allow the university to subsidize their health care again.
Loftin set a deadline of October 31 for the task force to present options to him so he can work with university administrators and graduate students to 'decide the way forward.'
MU said the IRS would penalize the university $100 per day for every student it gave subsidies to, citing a provision within the Affordable Care Act that prevents employers from giving employees money to pay for health insurance.
The university said the IRS considers graduate students employees rather than students because they provide research and teaching services as part of their studies.
In response, MU offered graduate students a one-time fellowship of $1,200 for the fall semester to help offset health insurance costs, but said it did not have a long-term solution to provide the rest of the $3000 it previously offered.
Students said they were angry that the university waited weeks to announce the changes and said they think the university isn't doing enough to address the issue.
KOMU 8 News reached out to the University of Missouri News Bureau Tuesday to learn more about the task force, but did not receive a response back.
MU doctoral candidate Jeff Stilley said he's skeptical of the task force and thinks it probably will not be effective in resolving the issue.
"We'll see what they say," Stilley said. "They're apparently not going to release anything to resolve the issue until late October, which is not acceptable. I think they should have done that over the summer."
Many graduate students have taken to social media to speak out against the university's decision and to express their concerns amid uncertainty about if they will be able to pay for health care.
The task force has been up and running for 13+ hours. Longer than we had to find health insurance. Any solutions yet? #GradInsurance— Braden Leap (@MoBLeap) August 18, 2015
Some graduate students tweeted they are upset state leaders haven't addressed the issue yet.
Missouri Rep. Kip Kendrick (D) offered his support to graduate students, though, and attended the Monday graduate forum.
Click here for more information about why the university stopped the subsidies.