Provost Robert A. Brown announced Friday that MIT will raise graduate student stipends $30 a month to cover two-thirds of a $45 a month increase in premium for the optional extended hospital insurance for students.
Most students have undergraduate financial aid or graduate stipends, and MIT will increase its financial support to help pay the added cost. For undergraduates, financial aid will cover all of it. The insurance currently costs a student $900 a year.
The insurance covers outside hospitalizations, special tests, medical specialists and prescription drugs. It is separate from the MIT Health Plan, which covers routine care, tests and infirmary care by MIT medical personnel. The MIT Health Plan cost, $840 this year, is built into tuition and will remain at $840 for the academic year starting in September.
Chancellor Phillip Clay commented, "We are very proud of the extended insurance program we are providing, which is one of the best."
Brown said the premium for the extended hospital insurance for students will increase to $1,440 for the next fiscal year. This is an increase of $45 per month and a 60% increase in the insurance premium. An increase of 20 percent had been anticipated until recently, when it was forecast that a 70% increase in premium would be needed to cover costs next year. Brown noted, "The revised premium compares closely to the premiums charged by other northeastern private research universities."
To help graduate students pay the premium, MIT will raise the monthly stipends for research assistants and teaching assistants for Fiscal Year 2004 by $30 a month, starting July 1. For example, the stipend level for doctoral level research assistants will increase from the $1,950 per month level set in February to $ 1,980 per month.
MIT will also establish monthly premiums so students don't have to make a large payment at the beginning of the year. No interest or finance charges will be assessed in this monthly payment plan.
If a student were to purchase individual hospital insurance from an outside provider, the current costs for comparable plans range from $3,600 to $4,600 per year.
About four out of five graduate students and two out of five undergraduates are enrolled this year in the extended insurance. Other students are covered by the insurance plan of other members of their family. State law requires students to have hospital insurance.
Boston Costs up 25% a Year
Boston area medical costs have been increasing at the rate of about 25% a year for the past two years, Clay said, while MIT's premium for hospital insurance has increased by about half that. The difference was paid deliberately through funds held in reserve in order to minimize expense to students, but those funds have been exhausted.
Most of the increase in costs comes from hospitalizations, prescription drugs and medical tests. Mental health costs have been about 15 percent of the total cost, Clay said.
In another change, in line with the Mental Health Task Force recommendations, MIT has now added six more professionals to its mental health staff to boost availability on campus for students.
While the Institute staff was being recruited, MIT had unlimited coverage for mental health visits. Now that MIT's mental health staff has been increased, that will change, and coverage for outside mental health appointments will be limited to 24 visits a year.
Kirk Kolenbrander, special assistant to the president and chancellor, said that the leadership of the Graduate Student Council (GSC) was very important to working out a plan. "The GSC hosted two town meetings on this topic in May, and the thoughts and concerns expressed at these well-attended meetings have helped shape the expected change in premium and stipend," he said.