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Administrative woes may lead me to quit


seriously_stressed
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I'm in my first semester of my PhD and the administration is such a headache that I'm thinking of quitting the program.

I could name a laundry list of issues, but by far the most important is health insurance. I was told I would have it by October, but I'm still waiting. My partner, who has a serious medical condition, relocated with me and is also waiting for insurance. Because of my partner's condition, we were very proactive in communicating our concerns about health insurance before accepting the offer to come here. The program office was very responsive, gave us all the brochures and assured us of the coverage we'd have.

The coverage is pretty generous for a student plan, which satisfied us at decision time. But we don't have this insurance yet and I don't know when we will. The program office is now telling me they will check "in January" to see where things stand. We've been fronting medical costs for months - expenses we didn't plan for, and can't afford. I feel pretty angry, as does my partner, and I fear the stress is affecting my partner's health (and probably mine). The other first year students also do not have insurance, but while they seem annoyed, none seem as affected by this delay as I am.

I have spoken to my advisor, who helped me get the program office to reply to my emails (they'd been ignoring me for weeks). Still, my advisor can't make the insurance happen and as a result, I'm not sure how helpful it is (or how good for impression management) if I continue to bring it up. In addition, I haven't told my advisor or the school about my partner's condition because my partner does not want anyone here to know. My pressure on them for coverage makes it seem like I'm simply neurotic.

I feel so frustrated. It has been hard for me to focus on my coursework with this stress. I feel like the program administrators are indirectly worsening my partner's health and I'm starting to resent them. My partner and I have talked about leaving, but we'd face the costs of relocation and my PhD application process all over again. We keep hoping that tomorrow, the next day, or next week, we'll get the information we've been waiting for, but we really have no idea. At the same time, I have completely lost faith in my program's administration, and a PhD is a long time.

If anyone has faced a similar situation, or has any advice, I'd be most grateful.

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You can tell your supervisor that your partner has a medical condition and that the insurance is a pressing issue. They don't need to know what your partner's condition is exactly, just that not having insurance is stressing you out. It might also be helpful to talk with the graduate program supervisor/adminstrator. If you're part of a student association or union, definitely talk to them.

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I will note that our health insurance is also similarly bureaucratic. Because there is a somewhat lengthy opt out period, students are not able to make claims against their insurance for several months, while it is sorted out who has asked for coverage and who hasn't. But we are still covered, we just have to pay all the costs up front.

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Go to the office. They can ignore emails, but they can't ignore you. You don't have to specify the condition, but you can stress that there is a serious medical issue and you guys are already fronting unplanned costs.

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I also think going to the office in person (instead of phone or email) can make a difference. I had similar problems at the beginning of the term, but when I went to the Human Resources office (they take care of benefits), the matter was resolved within a week.

Edited by TakeruK
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