1. It's not included with our health care. You can sign up for it separately (for a fee).
2. Its availability is very poorly advertised - my first year here I didn't even
know about it. and last year I specifically asked about dental insurance and tried to sign up for it. I found it very difficult - you had to send away for forms to fill out, and then no one could tell you which dentists nearby wouldaccept DMO insurance, or were accepting patients. This year they seemed to have remedied that - you can do everything online - but the availability of the insurance is still poorly advertised.
3. The insurance itself is TERRIBLE. I had to have a root canal (because I haven't had dental insurance for the last two years) and the insurance covers approximately 30% of the $1800 cost. Meaning I have to spend almost a month's pay to get a root canal.
have high cholesterol that is supposed to be monitored every three months. Since coming to the University of Chicago, I have gotten it tested once because the test costs $125 and I can only really afford to pay that kind of money once a year. I have been estimating my progress since last January. The U fo C coverage's ineptness shocks me. Before coming here, I was at Harvard, where I was provided with all the health care I needed and paid less than I do now. I paid one doctor's bill in three years, and I got all kinds of procedures done, including moles removed, cavities filled and travel vaccinations. And my birth control pill copay was $10! And to think I complained about how difficult it was to see a doctor! I think I'd settle for long lines and no bills. When is the University going to begin to treat its grad students like adults who work for a living?
When I got my offer from the U of C (now almost 2 years ago) I was also offered a comparable funding package from UMich. I remember looking over the letters and realizing that the Michigan package included healthcare for four years, even those years in which I was not required to work as a GSI. When I came to Chicago as a prospective student I met with a number of members of the faculty. I told them all that my offer from Michigan included healthcare, and that this effectively tacked a thousand or so dollars on to the stipend they were offering me. A member of the faculty looked me in the eye and told me not to take that into account. Another person here, I can't remember if it was an administrator or a faculty member, acted surprised, as if they could not believe that Michigan includes health care in their offers.
Well, I came to Chicago, and I love the city and my department, but I wish I had known that that decision would cost me more money each year. Every prospective student should be told to compare their offers carfully, to multiply the annual stipend by the number of years covered, multiply the cost of insurance by the same number, and the TACK ON A COUPLE THOUSAND OR SO for the amount it's bound to increase (or the expenses they'll be left with after
more cuts) and subtract the insurance from the stipend. Look every prospective in the face and tell them that their stipend will be reduced by several hundered a year as the university forces us to pay extrordinary prices for lousy healthcare.
Some students have asked what they can do to help. The first answer is make your opinion heard. Post here! Tell other students. Post on your student lists about this group, about the fact that BSD and PSD students get their insurance covered and others don't.
We will have a formal petition out the first week of winter quarter. We will need your help to get all students to sign it!
We do need help now though and if you would like to help, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we can hopefully find something that works for you without taking too much time.
We are collecting information on what other schools do for health insurance and still have a number of schools to go. We will be holding a flyer campaign after Thansgiving. We can use help with that. We can get more information from different deans.
Last year I had to get an EKG, and the insurance company denied me coverage by claiming that my murmur was a "pre-existing condition." It was not,and I told them so, but they basically called me a liar and refused to pay. When I finally convinced them that I was telling the truth, they then came back with an offer to cover thirty percent of the bill, which I protested, so they upped it to fifty percent. It wasn't until five months of letters and phone calls later that I finally got them to pay the eighty percent for which I am supposed to be covered.
This summer I sent in a claim on a referral that I had paid for out of pocket, and they sent me back a check that was ninety dollars short of the amount that the insurance company itself admitted I was owed. I have been in person to speak to the Chickering representative about this matter several times, but I have not heard back on it. Meanwhile, they have been sitting on another claim for reimbursement for over a month. They owe me about $400 right now. With a yearly income of $15,000 (minus 10% for health insurance!) that's not an insignificant sum. It makes me very angry that I spend 10% of my income on insurance that doesn't have the most comprehensive coverage in the first place, and then have to fight tooth and nail to get the money to which I am entitled. I don't recall having so much trouble with other insurance plans to which I have subscribed.
On the topic of less-than-comprehensive coverage: the health plan has no coverage for dental or optometry visits--I need new glasses, but have to wait until next quarter's stipend check. And the mental health coverage is very limited. There is a life-time limit of seventy visits. I have a history of serious depression, and for me that is only two years of visits. What will I do next year?
So, while I pay ten percent of my income on health insurance, two of the four services I most commonly need (optometry and dental) are not covered at all, one of them (mental health) is crappily covered and the fourth (yearly exams) I pay for anyway through my student health fee. Furthermore, in the cases when I _do_ qualify for coverage through my health insurance, I have to struggle to gear reimbursed. What am I paying for again?
I suggest that either: the university insurance cover dental, optometry and mental health, or that they reduce our charges in health insurance. I know that this may be expensive, but it is pretty ridiculous that I spend 10% of my income on health insurance and still have to shell out for most of the cost of my health care, barring any major accident.
My final point is perhaps just jealousy, but it also makes me angry that physical science students and students with outside sources of funding (the latter in general having significantly larger stipends than internal funding provides) have their insurance covered by theuniversity and internally funded students in other divisions don't. Someone with an NSF making twenty-some thousand dollars a year gets free health insurance and those of us making twelve and fifteen thousand don't? Give me a break!
Like many others, I strongly support serious and substantial changes to the University's current health insurance coverage and payment options. I ended up coming to Chicago for my graduate work, despite the hefty (and growing) insurance fee, but it was certainly something I thought about before making my decision, and I would encourage incoming students to do the same. The fact that the coverage keeps getting simultaneously more expensive and less adequate is shocking, particularly in a university that prides itself on its ability to attract top-notch students. I came because the Anthro Dept here is rigorous and deservedly held in high esteem. Questions of funding and fees (insurance in particular) have emerged, however, as ever more salient drawbacks to the program, and I wonder what level of committment this indicates from the administration - particularly given that the geo/bio/chem sciences do provide health coverage to their students.
It's not that I regret my decision to come here, but I do find that the cost of insurance takes a large and painful chunk out of my meager (albeit gratefully received) stipend. I would also counsel prospective student to think carefully about the costs of a program like this, and to weigh thoughtfully what all their options might be. There a lot of great faculty out there; Chicago has a large number of them, but certainly not a monopoly. The many-year-long process that is a PhD here means making life decisions, and those must necessarily include more than just academic concerns and possibilities.
I grew up in Canada, and so I grew up taking access for healthcare & health information for granted. It was basic to our quality of life, and not a "benefit" or a "luxury" or a "fellowship award." I think that the fact that I am very healthy owes everything to the free & easy access to healthcare I enjoyed in Canada. When I moved to the States, it was a shock to realize that good health and medical care is a privilege, for the privileged. But I was willing to pay an annual one-time fee to buy the access that I enjoyed as a human & civil right in Canada. Imagine, then, my surprise to find that I pay close to $2000/a for top-of-the-line "comprehensive" UofC health insurance and yet I still never visit a doctor without being charged between $50 and $100!!
How does this happen? For the uninitiated: there is a co-pay, then there is a deductible, there is usually some prescription, and then anything listed as preventive visit is not covered. By the time all these fees are paid, it is for me inevitably a new year and the cycle of deductible etc. begins again. I have yet to have a single consultation for which I don't pay at least $50.
So, I am in perfect health, because I have been in the habit of seeing my doctor regularly, before any conditions develop. (A habit which, studies show, reduces the chance of serious illness which in turn reduces long-term healthcare costs ...) But, with the UofC health insurance, I more and more cannot afford the check-ups and short visits for small ailments -- colds, flus, a skin rash, food poisoning (all autumn quarter 2003). I think twice now before I visit a doctor. And I have stopped seeing a dentist and an eye doctor, because my extra funds are already being paid to cover what an expensive UofC health insurance plan doesn't cover.
I know that this new behaviour, thanks to SASI, isn't healthy, and I worry about my health *more* now, because I put off medical consultations for fear of cost.
Once upon a time, access to medical knowledge and care was one of my basic civil rights and I grew up healthy. Today, sometimes all I can afford is the medical superstitions and gossip available on the internet, at the vitamin store or from friends, and I know this way of living poses real risks to my health. This way of living is a direct result of the combination of up-front and hidden high costs of health insurance through UofC
I was accepted to several graduate programs in 2002, ALL of which included health insurance in their financial award/aid package--except for U of C. This factor made me hesitate to come here, although I eventually decided it was the best place for me, academically/professionally. I also did some research before I came, and saw that although I had to pay, the U of C insurance coverage seemed decent. Then, I arrived last fall, and they had cut the benefit by 95%, without surveying students. I went to the fall 2002 meeting to address this, and that's where I learned about the "two-tiered" systems of natural science students receiving funding while social science and humanities students did not. A few natural science students felt they had even more reason to complain *because* insurance is included in their package--and thus, they have to take whatever the university gives them. So, they were more concerned about the details, while many of us non-automatically-insured folks were simply stunned that we had to pay out of out stipends.
I looked into other private insurance plans, which have much better benefits, but are still more expensive, ESPECIALLY for women of child-bearing age--note this is also a gendered issue. Women may get slightly cheaper car insurance but men pay significantly less for health insurance--and this is even excluding *separate* maternity coverage. This year, I am paying over $100 more out of pocket for a minimal plan (the basic). I have a regular prescription that is quite expensive, even the generic. It will *just* undercut the $1000 Rx yearly limit, thankfully, but I still have to pay 10% more co-pay than if I had the "advantage" plan, because it works out to slightly less than if i paid the advantage premiums.
Bottom line--fellow grad students at other competitive schools think this is ridiculous, as do I. I also did not receive information on dental insurance this year, and thus missed the deadline for the student rate. When I went to talk to the health insurance staff in their office, they did not take responsibility for being disorganized and uninformative, and did not help me by offering any alternatives. I felt generally ignored, as though I were bothering them.
The University does not inform prospective grad students of the costs of health insurance. By hiding the costs of insurance and fees they artificially inflate their humanities and social science stipend packages. I didn't find out that I would be paying for my own insurance until after I accepted. The letter they sent in the spring claimed a total of $400 dollars in insurance and fees; but when I started in the summer quarter, it was $500, and this fall it was $600 all together. Because of these fees and despite my "good" fellowship, I was forced to get
a part time job.
In addition to the $60 fee for Assist America services, which I only discovered by calling to confirm with them that I was in fact covered, Chickering does not pay for many standard vaccines and medications for overseas travel. I recently was told that, in order to get a prescription filled for a standard course of preventative anti-malaria medication, I would have to pay $300.00 out of pocket since preventative anti-malarials are not covered. In the next breath, the pharmacist told me that the oral typhoid vaccine - available by prescription and necessary for travel/residency in many parts of the world - was also not covered by insurance, and I needed to pay the out-of-pocket cost for that. Had I needed other vaccinations such as yellow fever or a booster shot I would have been responsible for those costs, as well, to say nothing of any tests (TB, blood tests, parasite cultures, etc) that I may require when I return from overseas research.
It seems that Chickering finds it cheaper to deny coverage for basic preventative care, which leads many students to take risks (i.e. not taking anti-malaria medication) that we otherwise wouldn't if the medications were covered. In addition, because of the buried 100 mile/90 day provision in the "travel insurance" we are provided, many students may not even realize that their insurance has lapsed until they get sick and need emergency care, and are then stuck with
the entire bill and no recourse to appeal it and no means of paying for the care they received.
I have been at the Div School since 1997, on the SASI Plan under its various guises. Upon moving back to Chicago in the summer of 2002, my partner got a job at the University Hospitals, took the PPO coverage offered in the benefits package, and listed me as a dependent.
When it came time to opt out of the SASI this year, I submitted a waiver, indicating that I already had insurance. Then I got a letter from Robin Wagner, the Associate Dean of Students, informing me that "[w]e have reviewed your listed insurance and are concerned that it does not meet our
suggested insurance standards." Given that this was a PPO offered as part of
a University benefits package, I was quite surprised to find that it would
Then I had a hint at the real issue: "This said, we will not deny your waiver application, but want to ensure that you fully understand the health and financial risks you may be taking by opting to waive coverage by the University of Chicago-approved SASI plan." This sounded very well-meaning, but it also sounded like an attempt to scare me into taking the SASI plan. (After all, if my waiver were denied, by course registration would have been held up, etc.) If they were not going to deny my application, why would they send out a letter like this?
As long as I have sufficient insurance--and I would think the University would consider the care it provides to its own employees sufficient--why should they care whether or not I take the SASI? Frankly, this raised a troubling question in my mind: exactly how much of a financial interest does the University have in getting students to enroll on the SASI? That would explain why it is so intent on deterring people from taking other insurance, yet also pays other Divisions to put
their students on the SASI. Obviously I can't prove anything terrible, but
the circumstances are suggestive.
A Maroon article describes what monies collected from a massive fundraising campaign will go towards:
"the Chicago Initiative, an ambitious fundraising campaign that seeks to raise $2 billion within a five-year period. At the moment the campaign has raised slightly under $1 billion, and the funds are being channeled toward the university’s endowment, financial aid budget, faculty recruitment, research programs, and construction of new facilities."
Why is none of this money allocated for health care? Are we really so much about the "Life of the Mind" that the "Life of the Body" has no value in this community?
If a student wants expatriate coverage or any of the travel insurance provisions supposedly provided in the insurance plan by assist america, you need to pay an EXTRA fee of $60 if you will be more than 100 miles away for more than 90
consecutive days, or your coverage will lapse until you return to your
billing area and then leave again
I know $60 might seem like small potatoes, but between that, the vaccine costs, the
prescription costs, and everything else it adds up to an awful lot out
of pocket if you do overseas research, which a good portion of U of C grad students do at some point in time.
My husband is an artist (thus self-employed) and diabetic (insulin dependent, which requires many prescriptions a month). The only way for him to have insurance coverage is to be a dependent on my insurance. Dependent coverage is twice the cost of student coverage ($888/quarter for 3 quarters), and it is only possible to get the Basic plan, which covers very little, especially for prescriptions and tests, which are essential for diabetics. It would probably be cheaper to not have the insurance and pay for everything out of pocket, but we keep the insurance for the little it covers and in the event of an emergency. We
often have to pay for insurance/medical expenses out of savings.
Come to our first meeting. It is important and will be the only one if the fall! It will be held Monday Nove 17th at 5:30 Cobb Hall 103.
Please email email@example.com if you would like to go but can't and would still like to help us out. In the future we will be doing a lot of the organizing and such online to ease the burden of meeting in person.
In my first year of grad school (2002-2003), I faced a potentially quite serious condition. Proper medical diagnosis of the situation ultimately required me to
undergo two "high-cost procedures," in the language of the university's then-current student insurance plan: an endoscopy and two MRIs. Because of the seriousness of the condition, I opted to undergo these procedures even though I knew they would likely go well above the costs. I was, in fact, stunned that my financial liability was no more than about $1100 when all was said and done.Granted, the "high-cost procedure cap" was removed after just one year in place. However, the fact that the university was willing to put it in place signifies that it has not historically taken students' health to be an overriding consideration in choosing insurance plans. This offends me and it requires change.
Fortunately, I am no longer on the University Health Insurance Plan,
but I have many horror stories from my time on that plan. First of
all, I don't believe that students should have to pay huge deductibles
and to risk losing their insurance should they become sick and have
to withdraw from school. That is absolutely insane and it puts
students in an incredibly precarious situation in which they are
paying for a service they would, in all likelihood, not even be able
to use should they become seriously ill. I hope this has changed.
Furthermore, my deductible and co-payments were so high when I was on
the University plan that I +found it difficult to get by, even though
I was fortunate enough to have only minor ailments. +In addition, the
service was absolutely terrible, considering the amount of money I
paid. I remember waiting weeks to get an appointment, and then
waiting hours even after I showed up at +the appointed time. I feel
fortunate in that I am now using my husband's health insurance plan,
which is much better and cheaper than the UChicago one, but I
sympathize with those students who do not have a +spouse or partner to
lean upon. They shouldn't be punished just because they are single or
happened to marry to another graduate student. It's abominable. ~
I wrote the following message to the Student Health Insurance Review
Committee (SHIRC) last February when they solicited comments:
In an environment of increasing health care costs, the university should be aware that the University's health coverage patterns increasingly contribute to how prospective graduate students will weigh the cost of graduate education. For example, I myself weighed Chicago against other top universities where I would have receivedchealth insurance free-of-charge due to the quasi-employee status of graduate students there. The uncertain cost and quality of the SASI was the most serious point against Chicago in my decision. Given current trends in health care costs, the university should recognize that graduate student health plans - and not just employee plans may increasingly affect the university's ability to compete with other institutions.
In addition, increases in prescription brand-name co-pays would dramatically increase my own monthly cost of living, because they would be multiplied by several times. The downside of excellent new medications for chronic conditions (e.g., asthma) is that they are available only under brand names.
I have found it difficult to obtain information by telephone from the on-campus representative of Aetna/Chickering. For example, last fall, numerous phone calls were not returned and this caused significant difficulty and concern for me.
This is from the story below. Just the last paragraph but I find it to be the kernel, the catch 22, the Achilles heel of completing a degree at the U of C as a social science and humanities student.
The high cost of health coverage at this University is preventing the full development of scholars, and the ability of students like me to give adequate attention to our work. We are stuck on a treadmill of just trying to presere our status as students under the current system.Posted by sos at 12:46 PM
ACCESS TO UNIVERSITY RESOURCES REGULARLY BLOCKED BY RESTRICTIONS DUE TO INABILITY TO PAY HIGH INSURANCE PREMIUMS
For the last few years, I have had a regular routine. Although daily during the academic year I provide a service as a Preceptor to undergraduate students in my department, and I'm expected to continue as needed over the summer without compensation, I usually can't access resources like NSIT and the libraries because I'm on restriction. I simply can't pay the extraordinary fees for health and hospitalization coverage for my family and me. The majority of my income through the year as a Preceptor goes to covering health care and student services fees, and I am unable to get a better paying job because I need the tuition waiver that accompanies the appointment.
It is like being tied to a company store, but because I can never pay the fees to the last minute, I work under restrictions that don't allow me access to the goods. Besides health care, it seems that what I get out of it is the privilige of not having the possibility of completing my degree completely eliminated. The care system is also a bureaucratic maze-- on several occassions I've been repeatedly
ignored while trying to get information by phone or email from the campus liason, only to find them out of the office on multiple visits.
The high cost of health coverage at this University is preventing the full development of scholars, and the ability of students like me to give adequate attention to our work. We are stuck on a treadmill of just trying to presere our status as students under the current system.
Chancellor Phillip Clay announced Tuesday that MIT will increase graduate student stipends and undergraduate financial aid to help cover most of a dramatic increase in the premium for the optional extended hospital insurance for students.
The MIT Health Plan covers routine care, tests and infirmary care by MIT medical personnel. Its cost—$840 this year—is built into tuition and will remain at $840 for the academic year starting in September.
For most students who have undergraduate financial aid or graduate stipends, MIT’s financial support will go up. For graduate students, the net increase will be equal to about a 20 percent hike in the cost of the insurance. For undergraduates, financial aid will cover all of it. The insurance currently costs a student $900 a year.
"Graduate students with research assistantships, teaching assistantships and fellowships will receive a new benefit that reduces the rapidly rising cost of Cardinal Care health insurance by as much as half, officials announced this week. The subsidy program is being introduced to mitigate the continued escalation in rates by private health insurance carriers. "
Read the rest of graduate student insurance subsidy revealed
The U. of C. owns and runs one of the largest teaching hospitals in the mid-West. You may have noticed it on your way to the Student Health Center. For accounting purposes, however, the UC hospital is technically considered independent of the university, despite the name and the fact
that all the doctors on the staff receive full faculty status (allowing them to vote, along with the actual teaching faculty, in university elections and policy decisions). The distinction between hospital and university operations is a legal fiction (devised to improve the university's bond-credit rating), which is at the heart of all the recent rhetoric about "rising costs" TOO the university (i.e., you). Maintaining this fiction is itself very expensive: the recently instituted "student health fee" is a direct result of the increasingly elaborate, bureaucratic boundary work instituted by the U. of C. to isolate its students (the university) from its doctors (the hospital complex). And that fee is just the tip of the iceberg.
Many of us have shared the experience of having to get a "referral" from the Student Health Center to a doctor WITHIN THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO HOSPITAL SYSTEM (or perhaps being told upon arriving at a scheduled appointment with some UC doctor that 1) their visit would not be covered, 2) they needed to pay some enormous "appointment fee" before the doctor would see hem, 3) that that particular clinic or department of the hospital did not take/had never heard of U of C Student Health Insurance, 4) they needed to obtain a referral from the Stud. Hlth. Cntr. for the appointment that the Stud. Hlth. Cntr. had made with them, 5) all of the above). This means that the university is going to great lengths to pretend that the Student Health Center is not in fact an office within the hospital, so that it can bill ITSELF (i.e., you) for services that it is itself providing, at RETAIL (i.e., inflated) rates. I'm sure this looks great on their books, and that the university ensures that it does by retaining the best auditing/consulting services available. But the rising cost of maintaining this arrangement has little to do with the price of antibiotics or syringes--i.e., health care itself.
It has much more to do with the reams of pink, yellow and white paper-trails, double-billing, third- and fourth-party payers, the multiplication of bureaucracies (university, hospital, Student Health Center, in-house insurance coordinators, independent insurance coordinators, independent claims services, outside insurance "providers" [to pay for services provided internally, but with separate, independent billing arrangements]), etc
I feel personally offended when I receive letters from the university claiming that "in the face of the rising costs of health care" the administration has no choice but to gouge its students even more deeply this year.
In the four + years that I've been at the U of C, the University, through various avatars, has consistently and increasingly restricted my access to ITS OWN
health care system. In the few times I've required medical attention, not only had the insurance procedures changed since the previous time (becoming with each change more arcane--quadruplicate carbon copies AND a separate computer system for students??), but the doctors and nurses I talk to HAVE NO IDEA HOW THE SYSTEM WORKS FOR UC STUDENTS (this has caused more than one SNAFU in my case). This kind of endemic confusion (obfuscation?) inevitably costs a lot of money to sort out. For example, I was recently required to create a physical paper-trail of "referrals" to a series of doctors appointments that my attending physician at the Student Health Care Center made for me (related to a bike accident) with different specialists in the hospital WEEKS AFTER they took place (and the bills started coming in), because of some medico-clerical miscommunication (my doctor not only didn't know how the
+referral system worked, she didn't know what services were and were not covered by the student policy--and was shocked to find out that various exams and treatments she routinely sent me to get were not covered). Aside from the hours and hours (days) I spent traipsing around the hospital getting signatures and dropping off forms, imagine the hives of behind-the-scenes activity necessary to process and "correct" all the bookkeeping my case must have generated. Is this the most cost effective way for the U of C to bill itself for the health care provided by the U of C hospital to U of C students?
Perhaps we ought to suggest to the administration that internally out-sourcing health care coverage to its hospital is not a very nice thing to inflict on its students. Wouldn't a more direct, open, relationship between students and the medical faculty and staff be healthier and
U of C hospitals for years had provided a vibrant hospital based midwifrey practice and now it is under threat for no satisfactory reasons by the U of C hospitals and more specifically chairman of the Ob/Gyne Department, Dr. Arthur Haney. Show your support of the U of C midwives. Show your support by signing a letter available here at support U of C midwives. Read about it in the maroon
It looks like the Student Health Insurance Review Committee is actively looking for new health insurance providers this year. They sent out what is called RFP (request For Proposal). This is good news. But this is nothing you can learn from their website. It would be better if the SHIRC website was updated to reflect what they are doing *now* as well as move to more transparency. Why not post meeting minutes since meetings are closed? How are students picked to be part of the committee? Do student positions withing SHIRC terminate at the end of year?
While you hold town meetings, weekly website updates might be a better way to keep the university informed of what you are doing.
As the student health insurance changes, once again, I am moved to tell this story. A few years ago, the U of C, in conjunction with students to be sure, changed the health plan, among which changes the Rx benefit was capped at around $4,000 / year.
Sound like alot? Think again.
Me, I have Multiple Sclerosis, and the regular maintence medication, standard Rx, is about $13,000 / year. Luckily, I left the Univ to a job, where the health benefit was able to fit me. What was scandalous is that MS, like any number of conditions, occurs in the late 20s and early 30s, i.e. typical ages for graduate students. I knew of several people who had to LEAVE the U of C because their MS was no longer tenable in the new system.
What I am saying is that at root, the health insurance treatment at many universities, the U of C included, presumes a univerally healthy person, which is incredible for an institution that claims such authority in understanding the world.
Come to our first meeting Monday November 17th at 5:30 in Cobb Hall Room 103
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for further questions