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I was just wondering what people's experiences were regarding health insurance at US institutions for PhD candidates. Does the school, itself, cover the cost, the individual, or something else? I am particularly curious how this may be changing in response to the Affordable Care Act.

  • It's also worth noting that many schools provide primary care through their own clinics to those associated with the university even if they don't provide general insurance. – Huck Bennett Jan 25 '16 at 23:33
  • If the person reading this comment is about to buy their own health insurance, it only took me _1-2 hours_ to parse my US University's policies page for the info I needed. Hopefully your UNI's page is similarly understandable. I put this off for quite awhile until my mom, grandma, girlfriend, basically everyone sane agreed that I needed to actually get health insurance, and then I was pleasantly surprised by how quick the actual reading was. – Nathan Jul 13 at 6:50
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This varies tremendously from one university to another. At some institutions you're on your own to buy insurance through the exchange. At other institutions the university pays for insurance for students and their families as part of the compensation for teaching/research assistants, similar to the way in which staff are insured. It's important for students to understand exactly what is being offered as part of the TA/RA package.

Some institutions that used to offer low cost/low benefit insurance plans to students have had to stop offering those plans because they weren't compatible with the ACA.

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    It's also important to note that if you're under 26 (which may be the case for some grad students) and your parents have health insurance, the ACA allows you to stay on your parents plan. – Galen Harrison Jan 25 '16 at 19:24
  • The last statement in the answer sounds unnecessarily bleak. It's not that universities were forced to stop offering plans. They chose not to offer plans that are in compliance with the law because this is cheaper for the university and because graduate students don't have enough of a lobby to stand up to the administration to demand that they are treated like other employees. – Wolfgang Bangerth Jan 25 '16 at 23:29
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    @WolfgangBangerth the universities didn't have the option of continuing to offer the plans that had been offered in the past. I agree that the universities could have spent more money or charged students higher premiums to offer new ACA compliant plans, but these wouldn't have been the same plans that had previously been offered. I submit that's a completely correct statement to say (as I did) that the old plans could no longer be offered, and more specifically that they could no longer be offered because the old plans weren't ACA compliant. – Brian Borchers Jan 26 '16 at 1:43
  • @BrianBorchers: Well, literally speaking I suppose you're right :-) They had to stop offering those "health insurance plans", but they didn't have to stop offering "health insurance". I will assume that you agree with this :-) – Wolfgang Bangerth Jan 26 '16 at 3:19
  • Yes, but the actual details of the ACA do really matter, and it's best to get these kinds of details straight to avoid confusion. I think its fair to say that some institutions that used to offer graduate students inexpensive insurance policies with poor coverage (premiums might or might not have been subsidized by the institution) can no longer offer such plans and that some of them have opted to simply not offer health insurance plans to graduate students and instead let students find their own insurance through the exchanges. – Brian Borchers Jan 26 '16 at 4:06

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