At last, grads get dental

After several years of lobbying administrators and evaluating their current health care options, graduate and professional students will have the option of purchasing dental insurance for the first time this coming fall.

Emily Stoops GRD ’13, a student advocate with the Graduate and Professional Student Senate, and GPSS President Amanda Machin LAW ’11 met with Deputy Provost Lloyd Suttle on Thursday afternoon to discuss their preference for an opt-in insurance plan through the independent Delta Dental insurance network — one of two plans under consideration — that would cover basic care without co-pays and offer 50 percent discounts all dental procedures besides regular cleanings.

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“It was an easy conversation because we were all pretty much in agreement,” Machin said.

Dental care has long been on the GPSS’s wish list, Stoops said, adding that the organization currently administers a Dental Emergency Fund, which paid out a total of almost $2,500 to 30 students in its most recent round. But Stoops said the fund received 106 applications this round from students requesting almost $33,000 to defray the costs of emergency dental procedures. The fund, which draws its money from the GPSS general budget, pays students three times a year. It was launched in February 2009 both to help students cover major dental procedures, as well as to demonstrate student demand for dental insurance.

The new plan differs from the other Delta Dental option, which was brought before administrators by the GPSS in the fall, Stoops said. Administrators had rejected the plan in October because it was deemed too costly for graduate students’ budgets, Stoops said, adding that the new plan’s enrollment fee will be about half the previous plan’s. The old proposal was like any traditional insurance plan, which charges a high annual fee so that a subscriber is essentially pre-paying for care he or she may need throughout the year, Stoops said. Under the current proposal, students will pay less up-front than in a traditional plan but more at the time of emergency care, Stoops said, adding that this model favors those in good dental health.

In October, administrators expressed concern at the high administrative costs associated with the original proposal. The University has never intended to subsidize dental insurance for its graduate and professional students, Machin said, and it has found a way to minimize administrative costs under the new plan. To save money, the University will not finance online enrollment for the plan, Stoops said.

“Yale designed the program to be at a minimum administrative cost to themselves,” she said.

Graduate School Dean Jon Butler was not available for comment after Thursday’s decision to offer the new dental insurance program.

Stoops said the plan has not yet been finalized. Administrators will continue to gather information about the program and negotiate the terms of the plan with Delta Dental, she said, before they formally announce the program at the end of April.

Paul Genecin, the director of University Health Services, said the new dental insurance plan is unrelated to new health care legislation, adding that the dental plan was conceived in response to student demand.

Of six graduate students interviewed before Thursday’s decision, two said they were satisfied with their basic coverage through the Yale Health Plan, but four said they wished the Yale plan offered dental care.

Though Stoops and Machin said they were pleased that the wait for dental insurance was over, Agnieszka Rec GRD ’15 said she did not understand why the Health Plan had not added a dental option of its own all along.

“I think it’s ridiculous that [Yale Health Plan] doesn’t have dental. We all have teeth,” she said before Thursday’s meeting. But later, she said she is glad students and administrators have struck a deal to bring dental care to the graduate and professional schools.

Students will need to enroll for the plan by mail over the summer, she said, and the GPSS will mount an advertising campaign this spring to raise awareness about the new program.

Correction: April 4, 2010

An earlier version of this article incorrectly described the benefits offered under a new dental insurance program for graduate and professional students. Subscribers to the plan will be eligible for a 50 percent discount on all procedures besides regular cleanings, not just emergency procedures. In addition, due to an editing error, the article misstated that Graduate School Dean Jon Butler did not respond to a request Thursday for comment for the article; in fact, Butler replied earlier in the week to a request for comment but was not available after Thursday’s decision to offer the new dental insurance program.

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