Community Content: Grad Student Discusses Impending University Healthcare Contract

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I have thoroughly enjoyed my first year as a graduate student at Penn State. I have been able to work with amazing professors, introduce undergraduates to the complexities of the American political system, and begin work on projects that I hope to turn into a dissertation. State College and the communities around it have been warm (even if the weather wasn’t) and welcoming to me as I transitioned to a new stage of my life. I have not though, been able to devote as much time as I’d like to studying, teaching, and research, instead I have had to work, with countless other students, community members, and faculty, to try to get a grasp on Aetna’s proposed changes to my healthcare.

Earlier this semester, students were informed that Aetna wanted to increase our premiums while decreasing benefits. We found out that, starting this fall, I and other graduate and undergraduate students will risk thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs if we have a medical emergency. Since then, I have been working with Healthcare Unites Graduate Students ( to try to find a solution to Aetna’s plan. We have worked with the Penn State administration as they responded to our concerns and formed a Task Force.

When I pointed out my concerns at the recent Board of Trustees meeting, we were informed that they thought that Penn State had until August 1st to sign the contract with Aetna. In previous discussions with the administration, we have heard other dates, and are also aware the Hershey Medical students need to have a contract before they start in July. In response to this, we have submitted a formal request to Vice President Damon Sims for information on the contract deadline (the request can be viewed online at

Over the last few months I have had the chance to meet students from across Penn State’s diverse departments. In my discussions with them two themes have continued to come up: concerns for their healthcare under the new Aetna plan and confusion over the administration’s response. We want to be partners in finding a solution to Aetna’s proposed changes, but we can only do that if the administration is open and transparent with us.

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