Chancellor Phillip Clay announced Tuesday that MIT will increase graduate student stipends and undergraduate financial aid to help cover most of a dramatic increase in the premium for the optional extended hospital insurance for students.
The MIT Health Plan covers routine care, tests and infirmary care by MIT medical personnel. Its cost--$840 this year--is built into tuition and will remain at $840 for the academic year starting in September.
For most students who have undergraduate financial aid or graduate stipends, MIT's financial support will go up. For graduate students, the net increase will be equal to about a 20 percent hike in the cost of the insurance. For undergraduates, financial aid will cover all of it. The insurance currently costs a student $900 a year.
The initial budget proposal was for an increase of 70 percent in the premium. "We are not going to accept that," said Clay. He added that the details were being worked out.
The insurance covers outside hospitalizations, special tests, medical specialists and prescription drugs. 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.
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.
About four of five graduate students and two 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.
Kirk Kolenbrander, special assistant to the president and chancellor, said the leadership of the Graduate Student Council played an important role in 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.
Boston-area medical costs have been increasing at the rate of about 25 percent 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 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, Clay said.
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 did not place a limit on the number of outside mental health visits by students. 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.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on June 4, 2003.