Dental and Vision

Penn’s Celebrating Graduate Student Appreciation Week.

How much does Penn appreciate your eyes and teeth?

Penn health insurance does not cover our contacts or glasses. Because of this, I have paid almost $300 a year out-of-pocket just for contacts. I haven’t gotten new glasses since coming to Penn because it’s so expensive.

— Graduate Student in Annenberg School of Communication

Since I got to Penn six years ago, I’ve incurred thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket dental expenses for root canals and other unavoidable procedures, despite having purchased Penn’s dental plan. These costly procedures were essential to my health, but were not covered by Penn insurance.

— Graduate Student in School of Arts and Sciences

I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on dental fees at Penn. A couple of years ago, I could see any dentist in the city. Then Penn changed it so that I could only use Penn Dental. Instead of being able to go to a dentist near my house, on short notice, I had to make an appointment months in advance at the one office Penn allowed me to.

— Graduate Student in Biomedical Graduate Studies

I never bought the Penn dental insurance before this year due to the fact that we’re expected to pay for the coverage in one lump sum. Now that I was finally able to afford coverage this year, I found out that I have six cavities because I was unable to get regular check-ups and cleanings.

— Joe Wuest, Political Science, School of Arts and Sciences

As graduate students, we use our eyes for many hours each day as we read, write, grade, and examine samples. The university only provides partial coverage for one regular eye exam and one contact lens exam per year, and does not help with the cost of contacts, lenses, frames, or prescription sunglasses.

Earlier this semester, a week after GET-UP’s campaign became public, the administration announced that it would “subsidize 50% of the cost of Penn Dental insurance for all full-time PhD students as part of their funding packages.” It is unclear whether this will be extended to those on external scholarship or without funding, and, even after the subsidy, graduate students will still pay at least $200 of the premium out-of-pocket. Further, there are internal problems to the plan. Coverage is, for instance, limited to $1500 per year – less than the cost of many oral surgeries – and only work done at the Penn Dental School is covered by the plan. The coverage Penn is offering still provides little protection from the large financial burden associated with a major dental emergency.

GET-UP, as a union of graduate student workers, can fight to secure full dental coverage and comprehensive vision benefits in a legally binding contract.

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