Opinion letter to the editor

Response to ‘Health insurance for graduate students with dependents to increase’

Addressing the concern caused by this previous story, which implied that the MIT administration and MIT Student Health Plan had discriminated against MIT families

On behalf of MIT Medical and the Office of the Dean for Graduate Education (ODGE), we are writing to express our disappointment in your front-page story “Health insurance for graduate students with dependents to increase” in the May 11 issue of The Tech. To our knowledge, no one from The Tech took the time to contact our offices for comment or to check facts. The resulting story falsely implied that the MIT administration and MIT Student Health Plan had discriminated against MIT families. This caused concern in the graduate student community.

The truth is that MIT has kept rates for family coverage artificially low for many years. In 2006, it cost $1,560 to add a spouse to the Extended Plan. Last year, the cost was $1,536. During those same 10 years, government data shows that individual healthcare premiums rose 52 percent, while, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average premium cost for families rose 58 percent.

How did MIT manage to do this?

By 2006, the Student Extended Insurance Plan had accumulated a large reserve of health plan funds. The Institute decided to draw from this surplus to subsidize health insurance premiums for families. However, these reserves were depleted over time, particularly during the past several years, when premiums fell far short of covering the costs of the services that the Student Extended Insurance Plan covers — hence, the need to increase spouse and dependent premiums for next year.

Although the total cost to add a spouse to comprehensive student insurance (basic coverage + Extended Plan) will rise by nine percent for the 2017–18 academic year, from $2,976 to $3,252, MIT families will continue to pay significantly less for comparable coverage than families at our peer institutions. Adding a spouse to student coverage at other New England universities, such as Harvard or Dartmouth, next year would cost $6,776 and $5,410 respectively. Additionally, MIT charges the same rate for dependents regardless of the number of children covered by the plan. Many of our peer institutions charge an additional fee for each child.

Finally, let us correct one additional misconception from your article — the implication that insurance costs for MIT faculty and staff are lower than those for students. The faculty and staff health plan differs in many ways from the student health plan, so it cannot be an “apples to apples” comparison. However, fact-checking the published rates on medical.mit.edu and hrweb.mit.edu/benefits/ would have shown that the family plan for students cost 12.7 percent less than the family plan for employees last year. Next year’s increase in student premiums makes costs for student families roughly equivalent to the premiums employee families pay for their least expensive MIT insurance option; the family rate for the more expensive employee plan is significantly higher than for the student plan.

Healthcare and health insurance are emotionally charged topics. We see evidence of this every day as Congress debates the future of the Affordable Care Act. And because healthcare is such a sensitive subject, it is important that reporting on the topic is accurate and fair.

If members of the MIT community still have questions or concerns, please email medical@mit.edu. We know that any increase in health care costs can be challenging for students and families, and MIT Medical and ODGE are available to work with interested or concerned community members on this issue.


Cecilia Stuopis, Medical Director, MIT Medical

Blanche Staton, Interim Dean for Graduate Education