Tuesday, April 23, 2024

MSU Graduate Employees Union rallies for affordable healthcare, free vision and dental care

March 21, 2024
<p>Groups of graduate students in the employee union gathered to address concerns to MSU Human Resources about affordable health care, and possibly free dental and vision coverage, March 21, 2024. </p>

Groups of graduate students in the employee union gathered to address concerns to MSU Human Resources about affordable health care, and possibly free dental and vision coverage, March 21, 2024.

Photo by Emily Martin | The State News

Members and supporters of the MSU Graduate Employees Union, or GEU, gathered in front of the Olin Health Center Thursday evening to show support for a proposal that would make healthcare more affordable for graduate employees.

The proposal, delivered to MSU Human Resources on Wednesday, would give graduate employees a healthcare provider outside of Olin Health Center, grant that coverage to any graduate employee’s dependents and make dental and vision coverage free.

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Signs and statement pieces were created by the graduate students, to help make their stance more apparent and to make their voices heard. This one reads, "Broken bones shouldn't break our banks. Affordable health care for grads!" Olin Health Center on March 21, 2024.

GEU President and doctoral student Cheyenne Kleiner said the proposal would greatly benefit graduate students and their families. In particular, she highlighted the importance of offering an alternative to the healthcare coverage provided by the Olin Health Center, which Kleiner said is not well suited for dealing with the medical needs of graduate employees.

“Olin is mainly meant to serve undergraduates, so it’s a lot of people coming in with the flu and with basic sick issues,” Kleiner said. “But graduate students range anywhere from 25 to being parents in their 30s, 40s, 50s and older. There’s a much larger range of medical issues that we have to deal with.”

Other people at the rally, such as graduate student Daniel Kent, shared personal anecdotes that highlighted how the current healthcare coverage had not sufficiently addressed their needs.

Kent said that when he learned he had a severe periodontal disease that threatened him with the possibility of losing his teeth, he attempted to get treatment before discovering that it was not covered by the current dental coverage. After finding the money to pay several thousand dollars worth of out-of-pocket bills, Kent was finally able to get treatment, but not before the disease claimed one of his teeth.

“No one should have to choose between having to pay this money upfront, which is a lot of money for graduate students, and paying for it (down the road),” Kent said. “We need some dental coverage.”

Ultimately, Kleiner said, comprehensive healthcare is vital for graduate employees, who work as teaching assistants and research assistants, among other roles, to perform their duties well.

“A lot of times, teachers, educators and researchers are asked to separate mind from body, but mind and body are very intertwined,” Kleiner said. “If we’re not healthy, then we’re not able to work.”

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Despite the cold weather, the sun and some hot tea kept the rally afloat at Olin Health Center, on March 21, 2024.

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