Better Healthcare for Graduate Students

Issues with our current health insurance policy with United Healthcare

Recent Improvement

In 2021, following significant advocacy by our student workers, our healthcare plan was slightly improved when the maximum out-of-pocket costs for in-network charges was lowered from $8,000 to $2,000. While this change was critical and long overdue, it’s only a small step in the right direction. The $2,000 maximum out of pocket limit is still far more expensive than is reasonable (nearly 18% of the base pay for an ASE making the minimum rate). For out-of-network health care, the maximum out-of-pocket remains an astounding $13,000 which is more than the minimum full-time graduate ASE academic year stipend. Given the lack of in-network coverage in the Fairbanks area, this maximum is FAR too high. In addition there are many other problems that grad appointees have reported with the health insurance plan. 

Lack of Coverage

Many basic types of coverage are completely excluded (without an option to opt in for a higher cost) including:

Lack of In-Network Providers

There are few providers in the Fairbanks area and other non-Anchorage locations in the state that accept graduate student insurance. This means that UAF-based students and students in the field or located at the smaller campuses often have to travel to Anchorage for medical care, incurring additional costs (such as travel, hotels, etc.), or need to spend extra time negotiating with the insurance provider to get local out-of-network care covered. For  students based outside of Anchorage, Juneau, and Fairbanks there are not even in-network providers for basic coverage that would be available at the Student Health Centers. Further, even when in-network providers are listed, the lists are often out of date and those providers no longer practice in the area.

There are ZERO In-Network Specialists Locations in Fairbanks of the following: 

Comparison of our policy vs UW

Our unionized grad appointee colleagues at other universities have bargained for better health insurance plans, both in terms of benefits design and cost sharing.  Here is one example (comparing key terms of the grad appointee health insurance plan at the University of Washington with ours): 

healthcare comparison

Read the healthcare stories submitted by UA graduate students here:

UA healthcare stories