Post Academic

Health care and/for the post-academic

In honor of the passage of health care reform by the House of Representatives (yes, I’m a big ol’ liberal!), I wanted to address how health insurance can be a day-to-day issue that affects grad students and, especially, post-academics without full-time employment.  I’m only aware of how the health insurance system works (or rather worked when I was a grad student) at UC Irvine, but the experiences I’m recounting that are my own and of people I know might reflect those of others elsewhere.  Some of memories are a little fuzzy, but I do remember how precarious things can be for grad students with nothing lined up after the Ph.D or M.A.

Health insurance for grad students can be quite good, at least if you’re a student in good standing and have no reason to take any time off or leaves of absence.  At UCI, health insurance came along with our fees and tuition, which were covered by the institution as long as we were on fellowship or teaching; there’s this whole thing about the school basically paying itself (at least that’s how I understand it) that always seemed to be absurd bureaucratic accounting.  Our health insurance covered a lot of things, including primary care, counseling, dental, and vision.  We had a big health center on campus, though it could take a while to get an appointment.  One notable blind spot to grad student health insurance was that it didn’t offer family dependent coverage.

The problems with health coverage would come later on for students who were running out of teaching and funding towards the end of the Ph.D. process.  It’s part of a chain reaction of anxiety that could become a vicious circle: