Yale offered student dental insurance for the first time this year but few students bit.
One hundred forty students — less than 1 percent of all graduate students and undergraduates — signed up to receive dental insurance as part of a new plan offered by the University, said Laura Kajor, spokeswoman for Bollinger, the dental insurance company.
University Health Services Deputy Director Chris Kielt said student interest had contributed to the University’s decision to offer the plan. Undergraduates lobbied for dental care last year, and GESO leaders, who are trying to form a graduate student union, have also taken credit for influencing the University’s decision.
Registration for the plan, which provides one year of insurance for a $180 fee, ended Monday. But many students said they barely considered the coverage, which the University announced in a letter to students.
“I think I threw it away,” Jared LeVant ’06 said of the letter.
The dental plan offers a maximum benefit of $600 and requires no deductible, although students must pay co-insurance costs. UHS does not provide its own dental care, but the plan allows students to select any dentist in the area.
One student who purchased insurance, Charlin Lu ’04, said she signed up for the coverage because she is from Taiwan.
“I don’t have any other dental insurance,” Lu said. “Because I was in Taiwan, it’s kind of impractical to fly back home [to see a dentist].”
Sarah Jane Selig ’06 said she did not think the plan was worth the cost.
“I already have a dentist,” Selig said. “Since it is only every six months that you have to go in, I’ll just go winter break and summer vacation. Unless you need some major root canal or teeth extraction, it doesn’t seem to make sense.”
Explaining the low volume of interest, UHS director Paul Genecin said many students had insurance through their parents and might not need additional dental coverage.
Kielt said Yale tried to find an insurance provider that had experience with student dental coverage and could create a plan “at a price point that students had indicated was appropriate.”
Kielt said he helped representatives from Yale College and the Graduate School find information about what plans were available. He said they “focused on the monthly cost as a target cost” in their research. The University eventually settled on Bollinger insurance.
In the past, some students complained about not having access to dental coverage through Yale.
Donya Khalili ’02 began her “personal crusade for student dental care” after she had a dental emergency in her sophomore year. When one of Khalili’s teeth lost its filling, she went to UHS but found that they did not provide dental services and that her Yale health insurance would not cover a trip to the dentist. Eventually, Yale-New Haven Hospital gave Khalili a temporary filling, which later fell out, she said.
“If I could have gone to a dentist, it would have been so much easier,” Khalili said.
Frustrated by her experience, Khalili, who served on the Yale College Council last year, urged UHS and the University to provide better dental care for students.
Last year, encouraged by many students who had had similar dental emergencies, Khalili attended “meeting after meeting” with UHS representatives to try to create a list of local dentists for Yale students.
Representatives from GESO have also claimed responsibility for the dental plan.
GESO chairwoman Anita Seth GRD ’05 said she believes the group’s push for better health care may have influenced the University’s decision.
“We run a campaign, and then the University grants the plan,” Seth said.
Dental coverage was a main part of GESO’s platform on health care, Seth said.
Genecin said there had been many requests for dental coverage, not just from GESO.