News Local/State

University Of Illinois Raises Student Health Insurance Premiums Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Alma Mater

A University of Illinois student takes a photo of the popular Alma Mater statue on campus in Urbana, Ill. (David Mercer/AP)

The University of Illinois Board of Trustees voted earlier this month to increase health insurance premiums by more than 30 percent for students at its Urbana-Champaign campus. 

Beginning in the fall, undergraduate premiums will increase by almost $200 per semester, while premiums for graduate students will go up by about $230 per semester.

The Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO), the labor union for the campus’ graduate workers, have criticized the move, especially because the decision was made while university students are grappling with the fall out of the COVID-19 public health crisis.

Akil Guruparan, a UIUC graduate student and member of the GEO, said “the ability to access healthcare should be the last thing on people’s mind while they’re reorganizing their lives like this.”

The university has suspended all face-to-face instruction for the remainder of the semester, and students have been instructed to return home.

“Like access to healthcare and health insurance really should be the last thing on people’s minds while we’re dealing with how to avoid this pandemic, and making the barrier higher because we don’t know really when this pandemic is going to run its course definitely feels like I’m not really being supported in a time of crisis,” Guruparan said.

Chantelle Thompson, a spokesperson for the U of I, wrote in an email that the decision stems from a 20% drop in enrollment in the plan since fiscal year 2016. Meanwhile, Thompson wrote, lack of enrollment in the plan has resulted in increased costs, and more people insured under the plan are using it.

Thompson wrote that claims for services, including mental health and maternal care, have risen.

According to Thompson, the health insurance premiums paid by students on the Urbana campus are relatively affordable compared to rates set by other Big Ten institutions. 

The University of Illinois Board of Trustees also voted to raise health insurance rates at the University of Illinois Chicago campus by 3.5%, while rates for University of Illinois Springfield have not yet been set. 

Follow Lee Gaines on Twitter: @LeeVGaines