Graduate students call for dental coverage

A student government body at the University’s Graduate School of Arts & Sciences is set to launch a dental reimbursement fund in an attempt to secure dental coverage from the University.

The Graduate & Professional Student Senate plans to announce Thursday the creation of a fund that will allow students to apply for reimbursements up to $500 for dental procedures. Although the fund — only $4500 taken from the GPSS’s budget — is small, organizers said they hope the program raises awareness of what students described as poor dental coverage for graduate and professional students. Graduate School Dean Jon Butler had no comment on what he called an “interesting experiment,” and noted that, when similar programs were offered in the past, few students signed up them.

Applicants seeking reimbursement from the GPSS fund for dental expenses must fill out a form online, which asks various questions about the procedure. A selection committee of GPSS members will then examine several factors to decide which students will receive reimbursements, including the cost and urgency of the procedure. The maximum reimbursement is $500.

The fund is the latest step by graduate and professional students in their campaign to obtain comprehensive dental coverage.

Woods said he has spoken with Butler about dental coverage several times. But he said the GPSS eventually decided to centralize its efforts and lobby the University provost’s office, rather than working separately each of the 12 graduate and professional deans.

Stephanie Spangler, deputy provost for biomedical and health affairs, said her office is in discussions with GPSS.

“We’re starting to explore options,” she said. “We wouldn’t be exploring it if we thought there was no hope of finding some kind of solution. We certainly want to sit down and explore what we can do.”

The provost’s office, along with Butler and the other deans, will ultimately have final say over the matter, Spangler said.

“It’s impossible that we’re going to solve the problem with the money we have at hand,” GPSS President Bryan Woods GRD ’11 said. “Our job is not to run a benefit organization but to lobby on behalf of graduate and professional students to the administration, and that’s what we’re going about here.”

Woods said the goal of the program is to show administrators that there is high demand for dental coverage and eventually work toward full dental insurance for graduate and professional students. If there is significant student demand for dental reimbursement, Woods said GPSS will petition administrators to add more money to GPSS’s overall budget. GPSS plans to maintain the reimbursement fund through the 2009-’10 academic year and will dedicate roughly $9000 annually to the program out of its $60,000 budget.

Yale once offered dental insurance to graduate and professional school students, but the insurance company withdrew due to lack of student interest, Butler said.

“It’s pretty sad that there is a large number of students who come to Yale and go for years without dental cleaning because the cost is too much,” said Sean McEvoy MED ’10, the administrator of the fund.

Currently, graduate and professional students may buy into a dental plan called Co-Health USA, said Paul Genecin, director of University health services. McEvoy said Co-Health USA allows students to see select area dentists at a discounted price. Ultimately, Woods said GPSS hopes to see a health insurance plan with annual premiums below $600 for families and $200 for individuals that will cover catastrophic dental work and cover routine care “at minimal cost to the student.”

Ten graduate students interviewed by the News said they found the Co-Health plan insufficient, but said they were skeptical of GPSS’s method.

Without dental coverage, Daniel Leisawitz GRD ’11 said he has spent hundreds of dollars on dental procedures during his time at Yale, and said he would value an insurance plan.

Priyanka Anand ’12 said the GPSS plan is not ideal, though she said it was better than nothing. Anand said participating in the fund is risky, as students must pay for a procedure before they know if they will be reimbursed.

“If you don’t end up being one of those people, you end up paying out of your pocket anyway,” Anand said. “I don’t know if [the fund] will have a lot of success, but it’s a nice thing to start off with.”

Anand called the options the University currently offers “unimpressive.”

Among top-tier graduate schools, Woods said only Yale and Dartmouth do not offer comprehensive dental insurance.

Comments

  • Anonymous

    Why do graduate students think they deserve dental benefits? They are there to learn (even to learn how to teach if they are teaching.) Yale is not mommy and daddy, Yale is a university whose mission does not include giving dental insurance to its students… who are already quite coddled as far as I can tell.

  • Grad Student

    As a graduate student who has had to pay for a couple of expensive dental procedures out of pocket, I would welcome any effort to improve the dental insurance situation.

    That said, I'm fairly skeptical of this plan. Has the dental reimbursement fund sought out the oversight of a medical or dental professional? Can non-professionals be qualified to make dental reimbursement decisions without this sort of oversight?

    I am also unsure of how comfortable I am with a (relatively) expensive funding body having "lobbying" as one of its explicit functions.

  • yale2011

    Agreed- I don't want the added pressure of feeling that I have to minor in a field.

  • A

    To the first poster: Why do you think graduate students do not deserve dental benefits? I suppose you skipped over the end of the article where it states that out of top tier schools, only Yale and Dartmouth are lacking in providing comprehensive dental insurance. Why don't you ponder why all the other top schools value it enough to provide it to their graduate students?

  • Med student

    Everyone needs dental insurance, just like everyone needs health insurance. Time for single payer national health care! Well done GPSS for bringing attention to the issue.

  • Anonymous

    I've spent over $5,000 on dental care over the long time I've spent at Yale - $5,000 I didn't have (I had to do a lot of out-of-school work to cover that). Much of that would have been preventable. Yale should be embarrassed (and I'll be withholding donations upon graduation until dental insurance is provided to all students).

  • jp

    i really don't understand why we don't have dental insurance as part of our health insurance. dental health is part of basic human health, yet we have to pay it out of pocket, making it pretty much unreasonably unaffordable. i know it's not the normal thing for employers to do nowadays, but it's really a basic human right…

  • Wealthy Alum

    Other schools provide dental, how come Yale doesn't?

  • Alex

    I think the absence of an affordable dental plan is simply outrageous. Oral health is as much a part of overall health as anything else. Shame on Yale bureaucrats for denying the students an affordable dental plan. I am quite sure each of them has one!

    And to the first poster- get a life!

  • beeker

    if it’s Yale Science and Engineering Weekend, shoudln’t it be YSE-W? Just sayin’…….