CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA)–At the U of I, the Graduate Employee Organization (GEO) is asking the University to cover the cost of health insurance for the summer for all its members. They said they want to make sure employees without summer appointments still have access to healthcare.

“There’s no reason that, graduate workers, or any workers for that matter should go without healthcare during the summer,” GEO member Becca Maree said.

With the university’s current format, health coverage is dependent on what semesters you work.
It’s split up by fall, spring and summer. The GEO on campus has many members who work fall and spring semester, but not during summer.

“If your healthcare waiver is tied to whether you work this semester, then invariably you’re going to have people over the summer who don’t have healthcare,” fellow member Kai Shinbrough said.

Members said they’ve tried to move the issue forward before, but they haven’t had much success.

“Particularly, COVID has compounded this problem,” Shinbrough added.

In a statement, University officials said they plan to ensure student rates for employees don’t increase. They also said they’re hoping for federal funding they can use to potentially offset costs.
But the GEO said that’s still not enough.

“A thousand dollar emergency, when someone is unemployed, in the middle of a pandemic, it’s a lot to ask a student to cover,” Leslie Owens, a member of the GEO’s Impact Bargaining Team said.

The Impact Bargaining Team and the University have had some conversations about covering those costs. They say they’d like to have something ironed out by March 22nd.

This summer, the expected costs for health coverage, not including fees, is $927. Adding another $122 would increase that price to $1,049. In summer 2020, that costed a total of $815 including that fee, and a total $699 in summer 2019.

Since summer of 2016 ($486), summer health coverage costs have increased by 116%.