The Graduate Student Assembly and the Graduate and Professional Student Senate have been negotiating with the Yale administration to improve student access to dental care, which is currently not included in the Yale Health Insurance package.

Currently, graduate students can buy a dental care package outside of the Yale Health system, and they themselves manage that dental plan. Unpaid student volunteers respond to email inquiries about coverage, contact insurance companies to negotiate benefits and provide information about the coverage to the graduate student community. The Yale graduate student dental plan is the only health care scheme in the Ivy League that is entirely student-run.

“Students have to pay out of pocket for the group plan, otherwise we could go uninsured, or [would have to] get private insurance, which is more expensive than the group plan,” said Jenette Creso GRD ’23, chair of facilities and health care for the assembly.

Senate Advocacy Chair Ed Courchaine GRD ’20 said that the senate and the assembly aspire to have Yale administer the dental plan in the upcoming year. Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Dean Lynn Cooley confirmed that “[she] is working with the Provost to explore this issue” in an email to the News.

Creso explained that a student-run insurance plan is “not the most sustainable model in the world.” She fears that once she and other students in charge of it graduate, future students will not have the same level of experience in navigating the dental insurance system, and students could lose coverage.

Currently, graduate student dental insurance covers cleanings and exams for the first year. After that one year, students also receive partial coverage on fillings, but no other services. If students take time off to study abroad, this resets their status on the insurance scheme, meaning that when they return, they will be treated as if it is their first year in the program.

“A root canal is up to $1,000. This is more than a third of what most graduate students make in a month,” Creso said. “Some dentists will give uninsured patients discounts, but regardless, it is a huge sum of money for us to pay.”

Courchaine said that he and other students in assembly leadership serve as “essentially insurance brokers” from June to October — starting initial talks with the insurance provider Delta Dental on confirming plan details and instituting the plan throughout the academic year.

“Students are not qualified insurance brokers,” Courchaine said. “We do not have the time or expertise to manage a plan that students deserve.”

According to a recent graduate student survey, half of the graduate student community does not have dental insurance.

John Besche | john.besche@yale.edu