Help a graduate student get insurance!
July 18, 2012 9:10 AM   Subscribe

Starting in one month, I'll be an unemployed NYS graduate student living completely off of loans. Am I eligible for family health plus/medicaid?


This fall, I'll be beginning an unfunded PhD. at a SUNY school. The problem is that the health insurance fee is $3000 a semester, and I cannot afford that even with the loans UB provided me with. Based on SUNY regulations, I cannot attend classes without health insurance. I was wondering if I could qualify for medicaid or family health plus? Has anyone here received public health care as a graduate student?

The details:
+ Single household, 22K in loans but 10k of that is eaten up by tuition with another 3k in fees.
+ I currently have a temporary job that pays 10.50/hr. It's 40 hrs a week, but it's very sporadic. As of August 5th, the job will end for the year.
+ I was told I do not currently qualify for any New York state funded program.
+ I currently do not have health insurance.
+ I will have a full time course load, and I'm desperately trying to find a job out in Buffalo.

My other question is how I would go about applying for medicaid/FHP. Should I go as soon as my job ends? I currently reside on the Massachusetts/NYS line and I'll be making the move out to Buffalo on August 15th. What county should I apply in?

I found a similar question here, but that involves Massachusetts. I will call my local medicaid office, but should I call the Buffalo medicaid office first?

posted by oxfordcomma to Work & Money (11 answers total)
How old are you? If you're 26 or younger, you can still be on your parents' insurance.
posted by Oktober at 9:17 AM on July 18, 2012

I'm 23, but I should of added that my dad is covered only by medicare, and my mom passed away two years ago.
posted by oxfordcomma at 9:20 AM on July 18, 2012

I've been on Medicaid on their requirements are extremely strict. As of 2012, you must be receiving less than $792 per month and have less than $14,240 in resources. [PDF] When I was on Medicaid (for catastrophic health care--cancer surgery + treatment) they even asked me if the 3D art assets I used to sell online were worth anything, so they really want you to be bled dry before they'll consider you.

Family Health Plus has a FAQ answer that covers your question:

"5) Are College Student Grants, Scholarships, Work-study or Loans Considered as Income?

Undergraduate educational grants, scholarships, or work-study are not considered as income. The portion of a graduate student's education grant, fellowship or scholarship used for educational purposes only is not considered as income; stipends for living expenses, housing, food, etc., are counted. Neither graduate nor undergraduate student loans are considered as income."

Their income requirements are a bit less strict.
posted by xyzzy at 9:21 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Here is the link to the website outlining what kind of private health insurance.

$3000 sounds kind of steep for a grad student in good health. Have you looked into an HMO like HIP, or some other provider.

I doubt seriously that you'll qualify for Medicaid. But do check out some private options, they may be more affordable.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:38 AM on July 18, 2012

The UB Sub-Board web site says tuition is $2,084/year, not $3,000/semester (which would be $6,000/year). Additionally, you can request that financial aid increase your budget if you have to pay for mandatory health insurance. If you manage to get a teaching assistantship, graduate assistantship, or research assistantship, you will be eligible for the New York State Health Insurance Plan, which is probably significantly cheaper.

Enrolling in a PhD program unfunded is often a poor financial decision that will leave you in debt for years to come. You might take this as another sign that this isn't such a great idea.
posted by grouse at 10:15 AM on July 18, 2012 [7 favorites]

Enrolling in a PhD program unfunded is often a poor financial decision that will leave you in debt for years to come. You might take this as another sign that this isn't such a great idea.

This is good advice.
posted by ewiar at 10:49 AM on July 18, 2012 [7 favorites]

The UB Sub-Board web site says tuition is $2,084/year, not $3,000/semester (which would be $6,000/year).

To clarify, that $2,084/year is the cost of insurance, not tuition.
posted by hoyland at 11:15 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Find out if your school's Graduate Student Association is part of NAGPS. They offer low cost insurance (definitely less than $6000/year) for current grad students, and post-grad for up to 2-3 years. It's not great insurance by any means, but for a healthy twenty-something, it may be ok (you should check the plan carefully).
posted by bluefly at 11:56 AM on July 18, 2012

Your financial aid can be increased to cover the cost of your student health insurance if you ask them to. However, I would take a moment to reconsider your plan and the amount of debt you will be taking on.
posted by Think_Long at 11:57 AM on July 18, 2012

I just MeMailed you.
posted by désoeuvrée at 12:05 PM on July 18, 2012

Never never never never go into debt for a PhD. This is not sane.

If your program won't fund you, either it isn't any good, or you aren't worth the investment. Sorry, but you need to hear that.

Is your 22k in loans part of your graduate tuition, or is it from undergrad? If so, what the heck are you doing?!

You must have at least a bachelor's degree if you are entering a PhD program. That means you can find a real job, even if it is low paying. I highly recommend working for a few years and building up some savings before starting graduate school. If you start graduate school at a time when $3k per year is unaffordable, things won't get better anytime soon. Who knows, having a job and money might show you how much you have to lose by taking out PhD loans and living in poverty for the better part of a decade.
posted by twblalock at 3:19 PM on July 18, 2012 [5 favorites]

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