Saturday, June 1, 2013

UC Santa Cruz Students and Workers Rally for UC Health Care Justice

Students and workers gathered outside of the Cowell Student Health Center on the UC Santa Cruz campus on February 13 in response to recent newstories reporting that the UC system is planning to "exploit an Obamacare loophole" to cap student insurance, as well as increase the Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) fees by 25% ($600). The proposed fee is the result of what organizers of the rally call "financial mismanagement" on the part of UC administrators.

Approximately 100 students and workers attended the rally, which included speeches by those who will likely be affected by the proposed insurance plan changes. Organizers of the rally handed out crutches, walkers, and surgical masks to the crowd to be used as props to symbolize the effects on student health the proposals would have. 

Sporadically throughout the rally demonstrators would move slowly through the McLaughlin Drive crosswalk in front of the health center, partly to pantomime a deteriorating metaphoric health, and partly to slow vehicular traffic as a statement to the university powers that be. Traffic was never delayed for more than a minute or so, and demonstrators received a significant amount of positive feedback from bus and service vehicle drivers. 

At two points during the rally, speakers held up a sign with the phone numbers of Jack Stobo, the UC Senior VP for Health Services, and UCSC's Chancellor Blumenthal, asking those in attendance to call and leave messages about their thoughts on the subject of the UC health care system. 

Micha Rahder, a doctoral candidiate in anthropology, spoke at the rally about how she has been affected financially by a chronic illness she was diagnosed with while at UCSC. Rahder suffers from the neurological disorder Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (CIDP), which has seriously impacted her life, leaving her in pain and with trouble walking at times. 

She has already reached her insurance cap at UCSC and has had to go into tens of thousands of dollars of debt to continue her treatment, all while working hard on campus. 

"I'm worried, I'm tired, and I'm angry," Rahder said at the rally. "I am angry the university is treating us so poorly." 

"I am a part of why this university is considerd a world class institution," she said proudly, going on to explain that she had taught three classes and assisted many others, and she had coached rugby. 

"Shame on the UC, shame on exploiting a loop hole in health care," she said. 

David Padilla, an undocumented student at UCSC, spoke at the rally, and he later explained how health insurance costs affected those applying to the UC system, which requires students to purchase health insurance from the school if they do not already have it. 

Because they are undocumented, no one in Padilla's family is insured, and neither was he when he was applying to attend UCSC. When planning for college, the cost of insurance is another daunting fee that undocumented applicants face in a different way than students who are already covered through their family. 

Padilla feels the rising cost of insurance, "does not allow people to access education," he said. 

Organizers of the rally issued the following demands: 

1. NO to the proposed 25% fee increases for SHIP Health Coverage. UC’s $900 million in medical center profits should be used to pay for financial mismanagement of the health plan. 

2. Eliminate the caps on life-saving care! Obamacare standards require eliminating ceilings on health care payments, but UC management is exploiting a loophole to deny coverage of lifesaving care to UC students. 

3. Affordable dependent care coverage. Paying $1300 a quarter for health insurance for dependents is unacceptable! 

David Padilla

Micha Rahder

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