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.