A student health advisory board is set to launch next semester as a platform for students to voice health concerns on campus.
Administrators originally planned to establish the board this semester, a plan that was announced in February but did not come to fruition. The university now plans to get the board running by the spring, announced Assistant Vice President of Student Health Vince WinklerPrins, at a graduate student health care roundtable Tuesday.
The board is slated to be comprised of 20 student members from organizations including the Georgetown University Student Association and the Georgetown University Graduate Student Government. It will also include students elected to the board, a representative from Yates Field House and deans from the undergraduate and graduate schools.
Members of the board are to propose plans of action to university health care officials, including WinklerPrins, to address recurring issues.
Although WinklerPrins did not specify which issues would be prioritized, he expects mental health discussions and the university health care policy to be priorities for the board upon its launch.
The board will provide a platform for students to discuss a range of health issues on campus, according to WinklerPrins.
Director of the Student Health Insurance Office Laura Hardman Crosby encouraged graduate students to voice their concerns regarding their health insurance so that they can be addressed.
“If you’ve actually gone through the process and you have an appeal that you feel frustrated about or if you have received services that you feel frustrated with, we want to know about that. There’s no way for us to really know that there are problems out there unless you call us,” Crosby said at the event.
Several graduate students attending the event, including members of the Georgetown Alliance of Graduate Employees, a labor union for graduate teaching assistants, voiced their discontent with the Premier Plan the university offers to undergraduate and graduate students.
Most full-time Georgetown students are mandated by the university to purchase the university-provided Premier Plan unless they fill out a waiver demonstrating they have other health insurance that meets the university’s coverage requirements.
Many graduate students purchase the Premier Plan because they are no longer eligible to be considered dependents under their parents’ plans and lack the funds to purchase a different plan, according to GAGE’s website. Approximately 43 percent of graduate students enroll in the Premier Plan, according to Crosby.
Members of GAGE and other students expressed discontent with the out-of-pocket premium rates included in the Premier Plan. In an intense exchange with a graduate student, Crosby said the mandate allows the university to keep prices low.
“We rely on the fact that we have a lot of people insured to keep costs down. That was Insurance 101 for me,” Crosby said.
In a letter to University President John J. DeGioia, GAGE demanded recognition of their labor union on Nov. 1. The group began preparing their proposal to unionize over a year ago. Securing a healthcare plan to better suit their needs is one of the group’s top priorities, according to GAGE’s website.
Contraception subsidization was another source of tension between students and health officials. Students asked if Georgetown would enact a similar policy to one at the University of Notre Dame, whose recent decision to stop covering birth control under their health insurance plan affected some undergraduate students. Notre Dame unexpectedly reversed its decision Tuesday after student backlash.
Georgetown will continue to cover contraception under the health care law requirement through the end of this insurance year, WinklerPrins said.
“Beyond that, this is an active question,” WinklerPrins said.