UT-Austin will change default insurance plan for graduate student employees in fall 2021

Samantha Greyson

Graduate student Didi Gardner said in the summer she lost insurance coverage for a month under UT SELECT, which forced her to find other ways to treat her Type 1 diabetes. Now, Gardner won’t have to worry about this annual lapse in coverage when UT adopts a new insurance program.

“As a Type 1 diabetic, a month without insurance is dangerous and can cost thousands,” Gardner said. “I would rather deal with some of the downgrades and minor increased costs that come with moving from UT SELECT to Academic Blue than face any more gaps in insurance when transitioning between fellowship and graduate student employment.”

Graduate student employees will be automatically enrolled in an Academic Blue insurance plan for the fall 2021 semester, after previously being enrolled in the University’s faculty plan, UT SELECT, for over 45 years. 

Gregorio Ponti, Graduate Student Assembly president, said enrollment in UT SELECT caused lapses in coverage and created a multiple-week window in the summer during which graduate student employees were uninsured. 

“As grad students, we knew that this was a thing, and we just kind of lived with it,” Ponti said. 

Maria Juenger, associate dean for graduate education transformation, said Academic Blue will now provide dental and vision care for graduate student employees that manually claim the benefits from UT SELECT. In the portal, students should select a button that says, “I don’t want UT SELECT,” and they will be able to use half of the money from their UT SELECT state benefits for dental and vision care, Juenger said.

Along with dental and vision care, the rates for adding spouses and children onto an Academic Blue plan is less expensive than it would be for UT SELECT, Juenger said.

While graduate student employees will be automatically enrolled in Academic Blue starting Sept. 1, they can choose to reactivate their UT SELECT plan on their insurance portal, Juenger said. 

Academic Blue currently serves international students as well as undergraduate and graduate students who are not employees and wish to enroll in a University insurance plan. Because the plan was already serving the UT community, it was easy to offer it to graduate student employees as an alternative to UT SELECT, Juenger said.

Graduate student Maile Marriott said the benefits from switching to Academic Blue will benefit her and her spouse. 

“My husband and I are both students right now, so we’re really relying on the insurance I receive as part of my graduate employment,” Marriott said. “It’s really a game changer for us that the premiums for spouses and dependents are essentially cut in half for next year. I’m also excited to receive dental and vision as part of the insurance; I’ve forgone eye appointments this year even though I need new contacts.”