Graduate student dental plan delayed

After several years the of lobbying for dental coverage, graduate students will still have to wait for University-provided insurance.

Administrators delayed approving a new dental insurance plan for graduate students Wednesday, disappointing members of the Graduate and Professional Student Senate who had hoped the plan would pass. In the wake of budget cuts, administrators questioned whether student interest would be high enough to justify the cost. But graduate students said there is enough support for the plan, which has been in development for a year. Next, GPSS student advocate Emily Stoops GRD ’13 said, the organization will collect data about student interest and try to garner more support for the proposal.

“[Administrators] are still enthusiastic about it, and we are still enthusiastic about it,” Stoops said, adding that she expects to meet with administrators in the next month to reevaluate the plan. “But there are concerns about the administrative costs associated with setting this up, especially in a time of economic crisis.”

The proposed dental plan, which would run about $300 a year for most students, would cover annual cleanings and a portion of emergency procedures such as fillings and root canals, Stoops said. Graduate students’ spouses and children may also enroll in the plan. Students would be automatically enrolled unless they chose to opt-out — a system similar to Yale’s health insurance plan.

Yale and Dartmouth are the only two Ivy League schools that do not offer dental insurance to graduate students, former GPSS president Bryan Woods said in February.

Administrators said they need GPSS to demonstrate high enough levels of student interest to justify the investment before they reconsider the plan, Stoops said. Deputy Provost J. Lloyd Suttle, who met with the students on Tuesday, declined to comment.

Graduate School Dean Jon Butler said Wednesday that low student enrollment has long been an obstacle to dental insurance plans for graduate students. Graduate students first had the option to enroll in a dental plan through Yale in 2002. But the insurance company involved withdrew due to a lack of student interest, Butler told the News in February.

“The problem has always been whether we have a sufficient subscriber base,” Butler said Tuesday. “Students who perceive themselves as not needing dental insurance don’t sign up for it. It’s not like health insurance.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, Stoops said, Suttle presented the GPSS representatives with findings from a meeting last month, in which representatives from several departments, including University Health Services, Students Financial and Administrative Services, and Compensation and Benefits, met to discuss their departments’ involvement in the implementation of a dental plan for graduate students.

“At the meeting we discussed an available plan,” University Health Services Director Paul Genecin told the News. “But it was not a good deal for the students.”

Still, Stoops said student interest in a new dental reimbursement fund, created by GPSS last spring as a substitute for dental insurance,, is also proof of strong student interest in dental care.

The Dental Expenses Fund, which draws $7,500 per year from GPSS’s general budget, reimburses select uninsured students to defray the cost of dental care, GPSS Public Relations Chair Zach Pursley ’10. Students must apply to the fund during one of three funding cycles after they have undergone a dental procedure. A committee of GPSS members makes the final decisions on who will be reimbursed.

In the last funding cycle alone, which covered expenses incurred between February and October of 2009, 106 students — or 2 percent of the graduate and professional student population — requested assistance. Fewer than one third received funding. More than 300 students have applied for funding since the program began.

Stoops said she is confident graduate student enrollment in the program will surpass the 10 percent benchmark, which she said is the standard enrollment rate for Yale’s peer institutions.

“We stayed outside GPSCY [Graduate and Professional Student Center at Yale] one night and talked to 600 to 800 people or more waiting outside in September,” Stoops said.

All told, between the GPSCY survey, conversations with students at the graduate activities fair and applicants for the dental fund, Stoops said she thinks they have reached 1,000 students, of which 75 percent were interested.

While 14 of 21 graduate students interviewed said they were uninsured, 14 said they would be interested in buying insurance through Yale. Those 14 said they would only buy it if it was cost-effective compared to other plans on the market.

Katherine Shinopoulos GRD ’12 said she applied to the fund for $500, following a $3,000 emergency root canal after she was injured playing basketball. Because her procedure was an emergency, Shinopoulos said, she expected to receive the full $500, but the committee only gave her $100.

“I don’t know anybody who has dental insurance who isn’t on their parents’ insurance,” said Shinopoulos, who had dental coverage through her parents’ plan until last fall, when her eligibility lapsed .

GPSS will continue to administer the Dental Expense Fund, Stoops said. But though student demand for assistance is high, she said, GPSS does not plan to increase the size of the fund any time soon.

“Our budget was cut this year,” Stoops said. “We’re still dealing with that issue.”

Comments

  • jr

    theres gonna be a lot of graduate students with bad ugly teeth…

  • ys

    why would they offer undergrads dental insurance but not us? doesn’t make sense. this is a basic health issue and it’s pretty absurd we don’t have it. can’t we just join undergrads’ plan?

  • doh

    because undergrads pay tuition and you dont.

  • @#3

    Undergrads don’t pay anything, their parents do.

  • yale 10

    ugh

    Go away grad students.

    You are irrelevent now and will be forever.

  • to doh…

    actually grad students do pay tuition. doh.

  • @yale 10

    Look up how to spell ‘irrelevent’ (sic) and then get back to us before you start going on about who does and does not count at your University (which has more grad students than undergrads, btw).

  • Amanda

    While many graduate students have their tuition covered by scholarship or another source – so they DO pay tuition – the majority of G&P students are professional students, who pay a significant amount of tuition and then pay interest on it when they graduate and start paying off their loans.

    Most peer institutions have dental insurance for their graduate students, so this is also an issue that affects how well Yale can draw the best graduate students, which believe it or not, undergrads, matters for you, too.

    Plus, ignoring your teeth in your twenties is a great way to doom your teeth forever. Do we really want a bunch of anthropologists in several hundred years looking at skeletons and saying, “Wow, nasty teeth. Must’ve been a Yale grad student.”

  • irrelevant grad student

    My teeth are sad!

    P.S. we must be HOT if the the undergrads continue to chase us around for booty even though we have nasty teeth…

  • chew on this

    It is in Yale’s best interest to offer grad students dental insurance. GESO (the graduate student union that went on strike in 2003, I believe) uses the lack of dental insurance as one of their primary recruiting tactics.

  • ds

    why are grad students treated differently whatsoever by yale’s insurance? i don’t understand the origins of that policy.

  • tyler

    I want a dental option.

  • I <3 G&P students

    There are many graduate students who go YEARS without ever seeing the dentist. I went in last year to get a cleaning and basic x-rays from a local dentist in New Haven and it cost over $200! Given that we are supposed to go twice a year for routine cleanings, you can see how dental work quickly adds up!

    I believe that the University does a disservice to its students by not helping them take care of one of their most basic needs. Professional, grad, or undergraduate student status shouldn’t matter. We are all a part of Yale University, even if we don’t live on campus or have as much of a “presence” as the undergrads.

    Please help us get dental care! It will have such an important impact on G&P student life at Yale.

  • c

    I’m a grad student and I was surprised to find out that yale doesn’t offer a dental plan. I’d sign up in a heartbeat.

  • Undergrad then Grad

    I’ve had a lot of dental problems develop over the time I’ve been at Yale, problems which would have been caught early had I been able to afford care. I am disgusted with Yale’s cold shoulder on this issue – I went through horrible pain because I couldn’t get a root canal, which is excruciating. I will not be giving a penny to Yale until they start including a comprehensive, mandatory, fully-funded dental plan for all students. Yale students shouldn’t have to worry about their health, and there is no difference between dental health and every other kind of health. It must be covered. I remember around 2002 that I could sign up for a $200 dental “insurance” plan which was a joke – and it sounds a lot like the current “plan.” It was really a discount program which would cut the cost of a cavity from $125 to $50 and the cost of a root canal/crown by a small fraction – you still had to pay hundreds out of pocket. This is not an option for a penniless student. While I won’t be penniless forever, I suffered, and I’m going to remember that for a long, long time. Shame on you Yale. Do the right thing. $300 for a discount plan is not a solution – you’re right that no one will sign up for it. It’s a joke of a solution.

  • med student

    A dental plan would really be great. Routine visits to the dentist are important, and I know that I would take advantage of such a plan if it existed. I have talked with other graduate and professional students about this and all of them seem interested.

  • es

    The lack of dental insurance at Yale means that many students go years without getting preventative care. Obviously prevention is the best medicine both to prevent issues like cavities and to increase the likelihood that those small issues are caught and treated before they become bigger and even more costly emergency procedures. Without dental insurance, Yale students are particularly vulnerable.

    @Undergrad then Grad – You have no evidence on which to make your assumptions about the dental insurance package being considered. I don’t think Yale would approve a similar plan with an equal chance to fail, especially considering the high price tag behind administering the program.

    @ys – There is no dental plan for undergrads, but a significant part of the undergrad population is covered on their parents insurance plan, so it’s less of an issue.

  • PA Student

    Many, many graduate students are interested in Dental Insurance. It’s important to distinguish that we aren’t looking for a free lunch; these costs should be factored into our Financial Aid and other budgetary calculations. But primarily, this care should be available, affordable, and routine. I do not comprehend why Dental Care is a secondary consideration, or treated like a medical second class consideration, for Graduate Students – or for the undergraduates who do not have parental insurance.

  • Andrew

    A dental plan is quite important. I know that the vast majority of my classmates want a one, and its a shame we don’t already have one.