UC Berkeley Faculty Association

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BFA statement on student dependent healthcare

Dear Dean Fiona Doyle,

The Berkeley Faculty Association wishes to express its grave concerns about the restructuring of healthcare for the dependents of graduate students.

We understand that the Affordable Care Act has required a reexamination of healthcare provision. We also recognize that it may well be the case that under the new conditions some graduate students with dependents may be able to access cheaper and better quality healthcare outside of SHIP.

That being said, we believe that procedurally the change of policy was mishandled. Despite presentations at the Graduate Assembly and ASUC by SHIP representatives, little opportunity was afforded for broader discussion or deliberation. The students most adversely affected by the change were neither properly consulted nor forewarned. Healthcare changes, where relationships of care with providers have been built up over time, are especially unsettling and emotional. This has been painfully apparent from the healthcare changes that faculty have experienced in recent years which were also announced with little warning.   We learned from that experience that new plans often do not include either the medical providers or the specific treatment options (without exorbitant co-pays) covered under previous plans.

Department Chairs and their Directors of Graduate Studies also received little warning and no consultation about the change. Faculty are not only concerned about the lack of due process and sensitivity with which this has been handled. The welfare of our students is also vital.   Moreover, we want to maintain the quality of our graduate programs. Recruiting the best students to live in such an expensive area, with stipends that can rarely compete with our private peer institutions, is already hard enough.   Those challenges are particularly grave for students with dependents. Were the quality of student dependent healthcare to deteriorate, or its cost to increase, it could have a significant impact upon our ability to recruit the best students and maintain the quality of our graduate programs.

We are not suggesting that you reverse the policy change. We appreciate that you have already set up a fund to ease the transition for students facing charges beyond what they would have paid under SHIP, but we would like such a fund to be made permanently available. We propose that the campus create a fund to compensate any students whose dependent healthcare costs increase from those available under SHIP, or exceed the ACA definition of ‘affordable’ care, namely 9.5% of household income.

In addition, we would hope that in future, such major changes in the life conditions of our graduate students be handled in a more sensitive manner and with proper consultation with not just the UAW (as is required by the contract), but also the directors of graduate programs in our academic departments.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours,

Colleen Lye and James Vernon
Co-chairs, Berkeley Faculty Association

  1. Chancellor Nicholas Dirks and Vice Chancellor John Wilton
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