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At the program I’ll be attending this fall, graduate fellows and graduate TAs get different health insurance packages. Fellows get the student insurance plan offered to undergrads, where GAs/TAs get faculty/staff insurance for the years they're TAing. For me that's just two years. (This is a little different than at my undergrad, where all grad students got comprehensive health care through our teaching hospital.) I’m 20, so theoretically I could stay on my parents’ health insurance through the entire program and it wouldn’t really matter. 

 

The sticky part is that my parents’ provider network doesn’t go outside of my home state, which I am leaving for grad school. Everything in my new state would be out of network, so I'd have to go home for doctor's appointments (or just pay more) - I'm not sure how feasible it’ll be to schedule all doctor’s appointments for Christmas break or whenever else I might be home. 

 

What do you guys do for health insurance? Is it better to stay on a plan that leaves me out-of-network in my new state, but gives me good coverage if I go home, or switch to my school’s plan for health insurance where I live? 

 

thanks!

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I'm now also in a different state than my parents (and can stay on their insurance still). I'm funded with health insurance at a school with a very good medical campus. It has been suggested to my cohort by several people now that for those of us that can stay on our parents we can still do so and it would be our primary insurance, and our insurance as a RA or TA would become secondary. Places would then file our insurance claim with whichever insurance would cover you the most. I'd ask someone at your school's clinic or similar since I'm not in healthcare and haven't tried this yet but it was suggested to me by several sources.

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If the insurance is fully paid for, I would switch. While it may be possible to schedule routine examinations during breaks when you are home (though many doctor's offices are closed for a week or two over Hanukkah/Christmas/New Year's), what if you need something during the academic year? What if you slip, fall, and dislocate your shoulder or break your wrist? It would really suck to have a bunch of out of pocket medical expenses (you'd have to check to see what the out of network policies are on your parent's plan but on my current health insurance there's a much higher deductible and lower percentages paid by the insurance company if you see someone out of their network). It sucks to think about planning for the worst but, you kinda should. Also, many graduate students find that they need to see a therapist or psychiatrist while in grad school. If you were to need such mental health services and you remain on your parents' plan, what would your options be? That's something to consider too.

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I recommend comparing the two prices. If your parents' plan is a really good one, and the school's plan is really crappy, it might be worth paying the additional out-of-network costs to see doctors in your new plan. 

 

But in most cases, it would probably be best to switch to the new school plan. For most people, it's not that rare to have to switch plans every couple of years. So I'd switch to the plan for TAs while I'm eligible then go to the undergrads/students' plan. If you want to minimize the effect on you, perhaps you can find a doctor that is on both plans. Otherwise, when you switch plans, you may have to switch doctors.

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Thanks for the tips, guys! I'll look into primary/secondary insurance, also. At the very least I can manage on my parents' plan for this year, and switch to the TA plan next year when I'm eligible. 

 

Also, many graduate students find that they need to see a therapist or psychiatrist while in grad school. If you were to need such mental health services and you remain on your parents' plan, what would your options be? That's something to consider too.

 

This is actually what prompted me to ask this question in the first place. I got around this question in undergrad by using my school's counseling center (which was free) and it was a very good experience for me! But in the future I'd like to have more options than just the school services, as well as a little more privacy. 

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I found that during my undergrad and masters I could use the campus health services (which included some counseling services) for free since I paid a fee to the university.  It doesn't do much good for a big emergency but if you're on you parent's insurance it might be something you can use for generic stuff when you're too far from home.

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