The University Record, November 2, 1992

M-CARE designs new health insurance plan for graduate students

By Jane R. Elgass

Beginning Jan. 1, 1993, certain groups of graduate students will be able to enroll in a health insurance plan that has been tailored to meet their special needs.

Called GradCare, the program has been developed by M-CARE and will be available on a group basis to newly appointed graduate student research assistants, to holders of certain fellowships and to those whose departments are prepared to enroll their students as a group.

The new plan provides a solution to a problem that has for some time concerned University officials, says Susan S. Lipschutz, senior associate dean, Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies.

“By virtue of the Graduate Employees Organization bargaining agreement with the University, students who are appointed graduate student teaching assistants (GSTAs) are eligible for the same type of health insurance available to faculty and staff,” Lipschutz explains.

“However, when those students are given a fellowship, or become self-supporting, they have either no coverage or they can purchase a reduced level of coverage offered through the Michigan Student Assembly (MSA). We found that students were accepting GSTA appointments term after term after term just to be eligible for the insurance. This is not good educational practice, nor does it constitute a good reason to teach.”

Lipschutz and John G. Cross, LS&A associate dean for budget and administration, worked with an ad hoc group of representatives from their units as well as the College of Engineering and the Medical School “to look at graduate students as a market,” Lipschutz explains. “We wanted to find a vendor to create a program tailored to the needs of these students.”

Assisting the group in its efforts were Craig M. Jorgeson, manager of staff benefits, and Colleen Dolan-Greene, assistant vice president-faculty personnel.

Vendors who were contacted included Aetna, Blue Cross-Blue Shield, Security Life (which handles the MSA program) and M-CARE.

“We found that more GSTAs and graduate student research assistants [GSRAs] had picked M-CARE when it was an option than the other offerings, and M-CARE was able to come up with a program that is one-third less expensive than that offered to faculty and staff. Part of the reason for the lower cost is the youth and relatively healthier state of the population being served,” Lipschutz explains.

“All change has trade-offs and this program is no different,” Lipschutz says. While prescription drugs are not covered by GradCare, one particular advantage is the enhanced out-of-area coverage. This addresses a unique need of the graduate student population GradCare will serve. GradCare’s out-of-area coverage is more generous than M-CARE’s. Our students study and do research in other states and in other countries. They will now be able to arrange to use providers outside the service area, on a term-by-term basis.”

Lipschutz points out that participation in GradCare is not mandatory and that it also is available only on a group basis. Only those research assistants, fellowship holders and departmental enrollees whose programs participate fully in the plan will be able to join.

As with the faculty and staff plans, the students will share the cost of the insurance with their units. The University contribution will be the cost of coverage up to a maximum of $200 per month. Thus, net cost to the students for 1993 will be zero for single coverage, $56 per month for two-person coverage and $84 per month for family coverage.

Lipschutz notes that the GradCare program has been “institutionalized” with the appointment of June Davis in the Office of Staff Benefits, whose focus will be on responding to questions and administering the program. She can be reached at 763-0458.

Special Note: During the transition period (through August 1994) graduate students who hold GSRA appointments and are already enrolled in one of the University’s regular health care plans may elect to continue their existing coverage. Effective Sept. 1, 1994, only GradCare will be available to research assistants.