I. What our unionized peers have
a. Coverage and reimbursement of premiums
b. Guaranteed medical and parental leave
II. What we want
a. Protection for sick leave & medical leave
b. Parental leave for both parents
c. Full coverage of insurance premiums for dependents & spouses; dental insurance
d. A 90/10 coinsurance rate and lower the out-of-pocket maximum copay
e. Elimination of referral requirement and other hurdles for off-campus treatment
f. Access to the SHP for ET/DCC graduate students
g. Improved transparency around healthcare decisions
PGSU believes that Princeton student workers deserve a say in the terms, benefits, and extent of our health insurance, all of which are currently unilaterally determined by the University. Concrete issues like paid sick leave, high coinsurance rates, referral requirements, and dependent premiums obstruct our teaching and research, our abilities to support ourselves and our families, and our capacity to be engaged members of Princeton’s community.
What our unionized peers have
Coverage and reimbursement of premiums
Graduate workers at New York University negotiated a contract that covers premiums for dental insurance (saving $240 per year) [Article XVIII, §C] and established pools of $150,000 (increasing annually) to reimburse dependent premiums [Article XVIII, §D].
Graduate workers at Rutgers University are provided the Vision Care Plan, which guarantees $45 reimbursement for contacts/glasses [Article VIII, Part Five].
Guaranteed medical and parental leave
The graduate union contract at
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University of Washington guarantees 7 days paid sick leave [Article 16, §3] and up to 12 weeks unpaid medical leave without loss of insurance [Article 16, §4].
The graduate union contract at University of Michigan guarantees paid medical leave for three times the duration of a standard work week [Article XIII, §A].
Postdocs at the University of California bargained for guaranteed paid parental leave for 4 weeks, in addition to 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave [Article 12, §B].
What we want
Protection for sick leave & medical leave, including continuation of healthcare coverage, visa status, and stipend pay
Princeton student workers currently have no protection for paid sick leave. While the Graduate School allows informally for “up to (but not more than)” four weeks’ vacation, the policy states that this “must not conflict with the student’s academic responsibilities, coursework, research, or teaching, and should be discussed in advance with one’s director of graduate studies, adviser, or dissertation committee.” This provision is inadequate for student workers who get sick or need to recover from major surgeries. Taking a medical leave of absence results in a suspension of stipend pay, medical coverage, and visa status for international students. By contrast, grad workers at Michigan receive three weeks of paid medical leave per year, and workers at the University of Washington can receive three months’ unpaid leave without loss of insurance.
Parental leave for both parents
Princeton also restricts our options for parental leave. The Graduate School’s childbirth and adoption accommodation grants new parents 12 weeks of leave, but if both parents are enrolled graduate students at Princeton, only one may receive the accommodation. This policy unevenly burdens new parents with the difficulties of raising and caring for young children.
Full coverage of insurance premiums for dependents & spouses as well as for dental insurance
While the premiums of PhD student workers are covered by the University, dependent premiums are not. This affects international students in particular whose spouses or domestic partners are unable to work under the conditions of F-2 visas. And where premiums run to $1,800 for a spouse and $900 per child per year, these sticker prices are prohibitively expensive for student workers supporting their families. By comparison, grad workers at NYU under their contract are able to apply for an up to 75% reimbursement of dependent premiums. The NYU contract also covers premiums for dental insurance, which Princeton grad workers currently pay out-of-pocket.
See also PGSU’s stance on Family and Dependents.
A 90/10 coinsurance rate and lower the out-of-pocket maximum copay
The Student Health Plan is also marred by high co-insurance rates: procedures after the $200 deductible is met are covered at 80% up to a maximum out-of-pocket cost of $5,000 per year. This means that for procedures up to $25,000, you can expect to spend a full $5,000 on your medical care. The Princeton employee plans by contrast cover 90% of procedure costs after the deductible. This means that student workers, who are compensated at lower rates than staff and faculty, are also expected to pay more for necessary medical procedures.
Elimination of referral requirement and other hurdles for off-campus treatment
While the Graduate School has claimed that these costs are offset by the ability of students to access care at McCosh Health Centre without paying for office visits, this claim ignores the fact that graduates often live off-campus as far away as Philadelphia and New York, and frequently need to access services not offered at McCosh. Further, because grad workers frequently live off-campus, the SHP’s requirement that, in most cases, we receive a referral from McCosh before being treated by other providers obstructs our ability to access care as needed.
Access to the SHP for ET/DCC graduate students
Currently, students in ET/DCC status don’t have access to the Student Health Plan. This policy punishes students who are unable to finish their degree during DCE by depriving them of the coverage they need to survive and do their work, and exacerbates economic disparities by forcing students without independent wealth or financially supportive families to decide between their health and completing their degree. PGSU will fight to ensure that our advanced-stage colleagues retain access to the same health insurance benefits provided to the rest of the grad population.
Improved transparency around healthcare decisions
Beyond the hurdles of expensive coverage, the decisions behind the student health plan are woefully non-transparent. While the Graduate School has a fund to reimburse exorbitant out-of-pocket health costs, the School hasn’t made public the extent of this fund, the amount grad workers can expect to be reimbursed, or the number of successful and unsuccessful applications. Important decisions that affect graduate student workers’ healthcare, like the 2015 decision to raise prescription drug prices, have been made unilaterally, with no transparency around the decision process and no space for the voices of those most affected by the policy to be heard.
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