Being a kid on Medicaid and going to Yale is almost paradoxical. I am poor in terms of money but rich in knowledge. I have no money of my own, but here I am, attempting to succeed in an environment of copious wealth. Asking for help is how I got a full ride to Yale, but getting into Yale is also how I lost my health insurance.
It’s not completely fair for me to say that Yale is the reason I’m uninsured. Technically, I’m not. All students at Yale receive access to Yale Health Basic Coverage. According to the Yale Health webpage, all students can use Student Health, Acute Care and Mental Health & Counseling services. Students on full financial aid receive even a step above that. If you’re poor enough, Yale provides additional financial aid to cover the $7,050 per year charge for hospitalization and specialty care coverage. With this additional coverage, students receive free bloodwork, free diagnostic imaging and free physical therapy, in addition to many other services, at no charge.
What basic coverage and specialty coverage do not provide, however, is dental care. If something happens to any part of me — excluding my mouth, and provided that I am inside the Yale network — I am covered. But once I leave the Yale network and travel back home, I am covered only in emergencies. Any routine appointment I might have needed once I left Yale must be taken care of before my plane takes off.
Throughout my first two years at Yale, I thought this coverage was enough. I had lived without any health insurance my entire life and had only gotten Medicaid my junior year of high school when I applied for it myself. For me, coming to Yale was the first time I had access to specialty coverage. My first year, I made use of it, undergoing a surgery I probably should have gotten five years prior, only paying $100 and a few missed classes for the opportunity. It took studying abroad in Paris and suffering what should have been a minor medical inconvenience to convince me that health care should not be called an opportunity.
The moment I got the Yale Health plan, I was disqualified from Medicaid. I lost the only form of health insurance that I had access to while at home. Where I had qualified for free healthcare before, I suddenly found myself relying solely on what Yale offered me. And what Yale offers is not full health care.
For many people, Yale Health Basic Coverage, coupled with their parent’s health insurance plan, is enough. For many people, Yale Health specialty coverage, coupled with their parent’s health insurance, is overkill. But there are still people at Yale — people like me, without any additional health insurance — who require more.
While I was in Paris this summer, a large part of my back molar broke off, exposing the gum and making it extremely painful to eat on that side of my mouth. Everyone I told would immediately insist that I go to the doctor. How could I have explained to them that I couldn’t?
Because I go to Yale, I receive access to some of the best academic and medical opportunities that I have ever experienced. Because of Yale, I have studied among America’s brightest students. Because of Yale, I have explored Europe. And because of Yale, I have lingering pain on the left side of my mouth that I cannot afford to fix.
Yale needs to acknowledge that there are students in its flock who are overlooked in every context. Health care is just one example. Though provided to me for free, Yale Health specialty coverage is not sufficient health insurance. The vast majority of the Yale population uses the Yale Health plan as it is meant to be used: supplemental to the insurance they already have. But where does that leave me, the girl who had Medicaid before Yale and who has nothing now? As I worry about my access to health insurance, I am aware of the promise Yale made to me as an incoming student: Here, I should be equal in health, in happiness and in opportunity.This situation is just another example of that promise being broken.
Lydia Burleson is a junior in Jonathan Edwards College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .