McCaskill Addresses Health Insurance Cut for MU Graduate Students

Aug 18, 2015

Senator Claire McCaskill spoke with Ben Warner, an MU professor of communications, about the loss of health insurance for graduate students at the University at her book signing event in Columbia on August 17.
Credit Emerald O'Brien / KBIA

  The announcement Friday that the University of Missouri will no longer provide subsidies for health insurance to graduate students is provoking a strong response from students and faculty.

Ben Warner is an assistant professor of communication at the University of Missouri. He went to the Claire McCaskill's book signing event at the Columbia Mall Monday to get more than just a signature – he was also looking for advice from McCaskill for students. 

"She said that she had a call-in, that she was looking into it, she hoped to be able to make some public statements soon, but that she thinks that there's probably a way around it and that she thinks that the situation should be able to improve," Warner said.

McCaskill's book tour came to Columbia just days after the news that the University would stop awarding subsidies to graduate students employed by the University to buy health insurance. 

This announcement came after an IRS rule which took effect July 1. Under the Affordable Care Act, the IRS will fine employers who give their employees subsidies to help buy their own health insurance.

Warner says this has left many grad students unsure of what to do next.

"They feel very much like they're going to be exposed for a period of time until they can figure out what to do now, that the fellowship that they're getting to help them get health care is insufficient," Warner said.

Though the university is giving eligible graduate students a one-time fellowship to help ease the burden, it only covers a maximum of $1240, less than half of what the original subsidy was worth.

McCaskill said she is working with the university and legislation to address the issue, but that there is no solution yet.

"So I'm talking to the University about other options that might be available that would help with the situation," McCaskill said. "But this is applying to part of a subset of employees, not all of the university employees, so it seems to me that there could be some other strategies that could be employed that wouldn’t leave the grad students out in the lurch."