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PSU grad students rally for better health coverage
By: Erin Calandra
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State graduate students held a 4-hour long rally in front of Old Main Thursday, demanding health coverage support from the university.
Recent changes in insurance coverage for graduate students will mean higher premiums and less coverage they said. That is something Enica Castaneda, graduate student and mother of two, said she just can't afford.
"We do the teaching, we do the research, we do the grading and we do a lot of work here," Castaneda said.
The changes would increase premiums by $1,500 to $3,000 and provide less coverage.
Stevie Berberick, a graduate student, said Penn State is only paying her a stipend of about $17,000 year.
"Anyone watching, imagine living in State College on $17,000," Berberick said. "You understand the fear that we have."
Penn State officials said the changes were made by the health care company Aetna and were a direct result of the Affordable Care Act.
Vice President of Student Affairs, Damon Sims said the university is committed to helping by increasing their premium contributions and by giving a 3 percent increase to the average stipend.
"Which will mitigate some of the consequences of all this, but it doesn't solve the problem and we acknowledge that," Sims said.
Castaneda said she appreciates the help, but adds that it's simply not enough. She is hoping Penn State will cover the increased premiums all together.
"We see the university find money for other things, a new president, football coach, State Patty's Day, the Sandusky scandal. We want them to find money for us. We are just as important as those things," she said.
Penn State officials said these conversations have just started. They are putting together a task force that will be dedicated to finding alternatives.
In the meantime, the insurance changes are expected to go into effect this summer.