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KBIA’s Health & Wealth Desk covers the economy and health of rural and underserved communities in Missouri and beyond. The team produces a weekly radio segment, as well as in-depth features and regular blog posts. The reporting desk is funded by a grant from the University of Missouri, and the Missouri Foundation for Health.Contact the Health & Wealth desk.

Graduate Students Discuss Next Steps After Losing Health Insurance

Rebecca Smith

On Friday, many University of Missouri graduate students found out via email they would no longer receive help from the university to pay for their health insurance. The response on social media was strong and on Monday graduate students from across campus gathered to discuss their concerns and plan for their next step. 

Graduate students received this news little more than 14 hours before graduate student health insurance coverage lapsed. This decision affects graduate students from every department who work for MU as teaching assistants, research assistants and library assistants.

One of the graduate students affected is Jennifer McKinney Wilson, a fifth year PhD candidate in the sociology department. She spoke during the graduate student forum held today – which more than 400 students attended.

"When we found out on Friday that we lost our insurance, I was 22 days away from my delivery date," McKinney Wilson said.  

Now she says she is 19 days away, already in labor, and has had no health insurance since Friday.

"Being a graduate student has always been a little difficult and challenging," Mckinney Wilson said. "I mean you have to make sacrifices to be here. Most of us took cuts in pay and things to come here. So up until today there were sacrifices, but they were doable. And now it doesn't seem so doable."

MU’s decision to stop giving grad students subsidies for their health insurance comes after an IRS rule that took effect July 1.

Under the Affordable Care Act, the IRS will fine employers who give their employees subsidies to help them buy their own insurance. The fines are $100 per day, per employee. 

MU is offering the more than three thousand students affected a one-time fellowship to help offset the costs of health insurance. The fellowship is up to $1200, just under half of what a health insurance subsidy from the University was worth. 

Graduate students shared ideas of what to do next – including unionizing and walking out of classes they are scheduled to teach next week.

Rebecca Smith is an award-winning reporter and producer for the KBIA Health & Wealth Desk. Born and raised outside of Rolla, Missouri, she has a passion for diving into often overlooked issues that affect the rural populations of her state – especially stories that broaden people’s perception of “rural” life.
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