Violent protesters at the University of California at Berkeley should consider themselves warned: riot-related injuries are not covered under the campus’s health insurance policy.
But campus health officials are working to change that due to concerns from student demonstrators.
“Because demonstrations sometimes turn violent despite the best efforts of organizers and even the majority of participants, it is hard to draw a line between demonstrations and riots,” said Mitar Milutinovic, a graduate student, in a statement to The Daily Californian.
Campus officials never intended to exempt riots from health coverage, according to a campus spokesperson. It is unclear how the clause made it into the health policy’s official language, which was updated when Berkeley switched insurance providers this summer.
“We would never enforce such a clause,” said Kim LaPean, communications manager for University Health Services, in a statement. “We respect our students’ rights.”
“Injury due to participation in a riot” is listed under exclusions on the 2013-2014 Student Health Insurance Plan.
“‘Participation in a riot’ means taking part in a riot in any way; including inciting the riot or conspiring to incite it. It does not include actions taken in self-defense; so
long as they are not taken against persons who are trying to restore law and order,” according to the policy.
Berkeley officials are already working to restore full medical coverage to rioters, and hope to have the exemption removed soon.
But a spokesperson for Aetna — Berkeley’s new health-care provider — said exemptions for riot-related injuries are standard practice in typical insurance policies. Nevertheless, the company will honor Berkeley’s request to eliminate the exemption and provide full coverage to violent demonstrators.
UC-Berkeley has long been a center of liberal political demonstrations. Clashes with campus police have occasionally turned violent.