MCS GSAC Meeting Minutes
April 6, 2005

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April 6, 2005

GSAC Meeting
Wednesday, April 6, 2005

In attendance:

Allison Marciszyn (BSC)
Andrea Benvin (CMY)
Ben Janesko (CMY)
David German (MSC)
Zeb Krahn (PHY)
Kalyani Varanasi (PHY)

Gregg Franklin
Katya Malkin

1. Update on Health Insurance Policies
Zeb filled in for the MCS GSA rep (Ryan Dickson) on the Healthcare Committee at their last meeting regarding the health insurance policy and gave an update on the situation.

There was no student input on the policy, including the hard waiver, for the coming year.

The hard waiver requires that a healthcare plan be an employer or government sponsored plan and that it have specific coverage in order for a student to be exempt from using Carnegie Mellon's plan. The "specific coverage" requirements are fairly stringent and must include mental health and drug/alcohol treatment. Although it is too late to change the requirements for the coming year, in the future, GSAC/GSA might be able to have a say in what the criteria are for the waiver.

Mandatory health insurance was initially required only for international students, but the requirement was changed several years ago to increase the size of our pool of students and secure better rates for students overall. The hard waiver, because it makes it difficult to find an acceptable outside insurance policy, also keeps the pool of students relatively large and means better rates overall. The mental health and drug/alcohol treatment coverage requirement is what makes it most difficult for students to find a qualifying outside plan. However, there are also certain state standards that apply to these types of coverage.

The reasoning behind allowing only employer or government sponsored plans is that these types of plans are required to cover everyone, regardless of pre-existing conditions. If healthy people move out of our pool of students (i.e., buy purchasing their own plans at lower cost), costs are increased for those who have to use the CMU plan.

It has been rumored that the hard waiver requires more coverage than the plans offered by CMU, but was not clear whether this is actually true.

Zeb has done some preliminary research on what students are paying at other schools and found that CMU's plans 2 and 3 are similar to what is being offered at other schools in terms of coverage, but that costs to students vary widely. State schools, for example, are more likely to subsidize healthcare costs for their students. Others charge a "student health fee" to all students that includes similar coverage He did not find anything as expensive as our plan 1. He also noted that it is very difficult to do an accurate benchmarking study because of the numerous factors that affect costs and plan coverage for different schools.

There are also issues with payroll deductions for student health care costs. Currently, graduate students cannot have their heath insurance payments deducted from their paycheck pre-tax as faculty and staff do. In addition, students are required to pay a fee to have these payments deducted. This may be an issue that GSAC/GSA can change in the future.

Based on the last Healthcare Committee meeting, Zeb reported that bids were due to CMU by March 9, and UPMC, Highmark, and Mega were leaders. Costs for individual plans will increase. For example, plan 3 will likely increase in cost by 10% - 12%.

Suggestions for increasing the pool and decreasing costs included combining our students with Pitt's, or even with a consortium of the private universities in Pittsburgh.

Finally, the group fee;s that it is important to increase communication between GSA and MCS students about these issues so that students can become more involved and make better decisions about their healthcare.

2. Happy Hour
Happy Hour is scheduled for Friday, April 6 from 5:00 - 8:00 PM in the Mellon Institute Social Room. Gerard has volunteered to order the food and pick up the beer. He asked that someone in Mellon be available to meet him/let him into the building. Andrea volunteered to do this and will contact him. We will have a security guard hired for the Happy Hour and there is also a security guard on duty in Mellon, who moves from the Bellfield Entrance to the back door at 6:00 PM, so latecomers should be able to get in.