Graduate students unhappy with insurance switch

Kaushiki Roy, News Reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared as part of the September 27 flipbook.

It’s been a month since UT has switched graduate students’ insurance, a move the University claimed would offer better coverage with free dental and vision care that the previous insurance carrier did not provide.

But graduate student John Anderson said he saw a fee of $100 appear under his health insurance for dental and vision coverage last week. Maria Juenger, associate dean of Graduate Education Transformation, said both dental and vision services should be covered under the Academic Blue insurance provider, and directed Anderson to the provider’s human resources department. 

“When I reached out to HR to ask about the extra fee for dental and vision coverage, they directed me to the website that said it was supposed to be free, but it wasn’t, and I didn’t receive any communication,” Anderson said.

UT’s graduate school decision to switch from UT Select to Academic Blue went into effect Sept. 1. The University said the switch would benefit students with better coverage. However, many students opposed the change, saying the overall coverage for students with recurring health care costs, chronic illnesses and pregnancies would increase. And some students say they are experiencing additional difficulties with the switch.

About 100 students came to the Graduate Student Assembly on Thursday to discuss these concerns.

At the GSA meeting, graduate student Aycan Akçamete said the switch from UT Select to Academic Blue has been chaotic. 

After receiving a confirmation email about her registration on the new insurance, Akçamete received another email from UT saying she had declined insurance coverage altogether. Akçamete said she reached out to the human resources department but did not receive word for about one week, during which she went without any insurance coverage. 

“No one told us what (the insurance switch) was going to look like or how (we were)  going to experience it,” Akçamete said. “I’m an international student (and) … UT, overall, is not inclusive of its international students to begin with, and now, we’re expected to keep track of all these changes when we’ve barely figured out the U.S. system.”

Juenger said since the process is new, she understands student confusion, but all enrollment issues should be resolved as of Monday. 

“At the end of the day, all the students will be covered with health insurance; it’s just a matter of confusion in the processing,” Juenger said. 

Juenger said the switch to Academic Blue should benefit a majority of graduate students except those who have chronic illnesses or go through pregnancies.  

Akçamete said she is nervous about future medical coverage with Academic Blue because she said it does not fully cover many tests and X-rays she received multiple times last year for sports injuries that could occur again. 

“This is a group of people who are in their 30s and 40s,” Akçamete said. “They’re not 18 year olds, and they need to go more often to the doctors. … We’re overdue, overworked and underpaid, and now, (our) insurance getting taken away makes everything worse.”

Anderson said graduate students who began working at UT with the expectation that UT Select would be their health care provider are being let down by the abrupt switch to Academic Blue, especially if they have disabilities that require frequent health care checkups.  

“I’m upset that hundreds, if not thousands, of University students are going to miss out on benefits that they should have automatically been enrolled in,” Anderson said.

Editor’s Note: The September 27 flipbook version of this story stated that the overall coverage in Academic Blue would lead students to pay thousands of of dollars out of pocket. The story has since been updated to say the costs will simply increase. The Texan regrets this error.