Could anyone kindly provide me with information about how PhD international students can be covered by health insurance in the US? :

Is it often granted by the University?

How much does it cost, on average (for the student and possibly spouse/children) and what does it cover?

Does "Obamacare" reform affect it anyhow?

I would appreciate any information. Thanks in advance.


This is very university-specific. My university pays the health insurance for students who are appointed to a graduate research assistantship or TA-ship at the half-time (20 hours/week) level. Half-time is the minimum to get the insurance paid, the maximum time allowed for a graduate student to work, and the usual appointment for the vast majority of graduate students. To add a spouse is about $450/mo. I do not know how much children cost to add. The coverage varies all over the map because insurance varies so much by state, institution, and plan in the US. The plan at my institution is for medical care only. Vision and dental are separate and funded entirely by the employee (though they're pretty cheap).

The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) may have changed this for some institutions which did not provide insurance options to grad students, but mine has for the last 20 years or so, so I don't really know.

All of this information should be on the website of the university you want to attend. You may have to look in the section for employees rather than students, but it's usually there. Look for "benefits" as well as "insurance".

  • Thank you for the information (by the way, 450$/month seems a lot of money.) Sep 3 '14 at 14:10
  • @buzzlumberjack: it is, especially compared to the typical graduate student compensation of around 2500 - 3000/mo. But as Bill says, it depends on the university. For comparison: the plan from Princeton I linked to below costs 1900/year for spouse and 950/year for children, which works out to be only about 160/mo and 80/mo respectively. Sep 3 '14 at 14:27
  • @buzzlumberjack, I have to admit that I looked at my own staff spouse rate and assumed the student spouse rate would be the same. There might be some additional subsidy at my institution. I was unmarried at the time I was a grad student here.
    – Bill Barth
    Sep 3 '14 at 16:15
  • Be careful that at some universities graduate students working as 20 hour/week TA's and RA's are not allowed to access the same health insurance as regular full time employees of the university. There may be a completely different insurance plan for graduate students or none at all. Nov 28 '14 at 22:17

A lot of universities do provide health insurance to enrolled students.

For example:

  • Princeton University's student health plan is extended by default to all enrolled graduate students (the line about tuition payment is pro forma: if you are on a fellowship or on a teaching assistant/research assistant position your tuition is covered automatically and so the insurance costs you nothing out of pocket). One can also enroll dependents (spouse and children) as long as certain requirements are met. Dental insurance is not covered by default, as far as I know.
  • A similar provision is offered by UC Berkeley.

The coverage offered are specific to the insurance plans, and thus entirely dependent on the University. The Google search phrase "< university name > graduate student health insurance" is pretty good at returning the results for the universities you are interested in.

  • Thank you! I asked this question because I wanted to have an overview of how these things usually look. Sep 3 '14 at 14:16

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