Right to choose a health insurance plan for international students at CMU

Right to choose a health insurance plan for international students at CMU

October 11, 2022
Signatures: 338Next Goal: 500
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Why this petition matters

Started by Himal Roka

For the right to choose insurance for all international students from the open market and therefore opt out of the GeoBlue insurance policy, a group of international students here at Central Michigan University (CMU) started this petition.  

On June 23, 2022, the Office of Global Engagement (OGE) announced the requirement for insurance for international students by publishing an article titled “Health Insurance For International Students” on Central Michigan University’s website (link https://www.cmich.edu/offices-departments/international-student-scholars/student-resources/health-insurance It seemed like great news for international students who did not already have health insurance. However, the mandate requiring that all international students, regardless of other health insurance coverage, must buy health insurance services from GeoBlue and pay $1532.16 per year is deeply problematic. Annual stipends for MS and Ph.D. students in the College of Science and Engineering are $21,609 and $26,964; therefore, this cost represents approximately 6-7% of annual stipends for students. The median gross rent in Mt. Pleasant is $8,844 per year ($737 per month) (41% of stipend per month for MS and 33% for Ph.D.) and increasing yearly, and with inflation, the cost of food has increased over 10% in the past year. Many students simply do not have the ability to pay this additional cost. On Sep. 25th, we started a survey among international students (see figure); 299 students participated, with 18.2% of students saying they are getting stipends from the university and 75.6% of the students saying they are self-funded. Among those who receive stipends, 11.7% of students answered that GeoBlue insurance fee is more than 50% of their total monthly expenditure, 12.7% said it is 30-50% of the expenditure, 37.3% of students answered the fee is 10-30% of their monthly spending. Among 75.6% of self-funded students, 25.3% of them answered GeoBlue insurance fee weighs more than 50% of their monthly expenditure. Similarly, 27.1% of students stated that insurance fees account for 30-50% of their monthly expenditures. 

In this survey, 92% of students answered that this policy is a financial burden, and 89% said this could cause mental distress to them.

Many students shared their concerns at a recent meeting with OGE on Sept. 13, 2022. This is reflected in our survey results as well. 95.3% of students answered they would choose another insurance company from the market than the expensive GeoBlue. Students were given little notice of this new policy and are locked into their leases; with low stipends, they do not have any flexibility with their budgets. Requiring students to make a one-time payment of this hefty fee without the possibility of installments is a significant hardship and causes a financial burden as stated by 92% of our survey takers. Many students do not have these funds available, which will result in penalization with late fees. This policy is causing significant mental stress for current students, hindering their ability to focus on their studies. In the same survey, 88% of students answered that the cost of the health insurance policy is causing them mental distress. These unreasonable requirements for insurance prices will also deter future recruiting of international students because a) other universities do not have such requirements and in fact much pay for health insurance for their graduate students and b) if faculty is to bear the cost of the insurance for their international graduate and/or undergraduate students, the cost of the GeoBlue plan to cover international students will be expensive for faculty. 

We respectfully request the following:

  • Allow international students the option to enroll in an external insurance plan that satisfies equivalent benefits and coverage to the GeoBlue plan.
  • Students who decide to participate in the GeoBlue plan need the option to contribute each month, as applies to CMU faculty and staff.
  • Provision of health insurance to GAs should be included along with stipend and tuition waiver

Endorsed by: 

  • Central Michigan University Faculty Association
  • Student Government Association
  • RSOs: International Student Organization, Nepali Student     Association, Indian Student Association, Empowered Latino Union


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Signatures: 338Next Goal: 500
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