By now, most, if not all of us, are aware of the healthcare debacle that graduate workers have been dealing with for the past week and a half. Since the release of the information regarding our new health care policy, there has been substantial confusion about off-campus coverage, receiving proof of insurance cards, using the University Health Services (UHS) pharmacy, and a myriad of other issues. To clarify these issues, CGE has been releasing information and guides since August 10th. Here is what we have learned during the course of our research.
The “emergency add” is the key to acquiring access to off-campus healthcare providers, both mental and physical. With an emergency add, graduate workers are added to the UnitedHealthcare plan before they normally would be (sometime between now and mid-October). You can request to be emergency added by calling UHS at 814-865-7467. We strongly recommend all graduate employees do this, regardless of whether or not they have an upcoming off-campus appointment, because this insurance is included in our compensation packages and we deserve to have access to it. This is an especially important step for international graduate workers, who must emergency add before September 5th to avoid a hold on their accounts as well as a late fee.
Once the emergency add call has been completed, wait 24 hours and go to United Health Group's Website. Once there, type in the school’s name (“The Pennsylvania State University – University Park”). After the web page redirects you, click “Login to My Account” in the upper right-hand corner of the screen and create an account. Upon creating your account, you’ll be able to access a digital version of your insurance card as well as order a physical copy. You can access your account within a day or two of getting emergency added even if you haven’t heard anything further from UHS.
Healthcare Services at UHS
As stated in The Graduate School’s Facebook post, UHS is going to hold all bills until October. This means that you will be able to utilize UHS and its pharmacy without an ID card until you receive your insurance cards in October (or sooner if you’ve done the emergency add). In order to use these services, tell UHS that you are a graduate assistant or fellow when you come in and do the same if you visit the pharmacy, though the procedure is more formal at the latter. To acquire prescriptions, you will have to sign a form confirming you are on an assistantship or fellowship and chosen to accept Penn State’s health care plan. You should NOT be asked to pay for these prescriptions out of pocket.
Non-UHS Services (Physical and Mental)
In order to see non-UHS providers, an emergency add is required, as you’ll need to bring proof of insurance, if just the policy number, to healthcare providers off campus. Regardless of what you have heard, neither mental nor physical healthcare providers are leaving the UnitedHealthcare system in droves, so you should be able to see your regular provider without issue if you have your proof of insurance and/or policy number. It’s always good to check with your provider to see if they accept UnitedHealthcare insurance (called United Behavioral Health or UBH for mental healthcare providers) though, so be sure to ask whether you’re covered under the new plan before you set up an appointment.
You can search to see if your mental healthcare provider is covered under the new insurance either via CAPS or through UnitedHealthcare’s website. You can also find local doctors, hospitals, laboratories, etc. covered by UnitedHealthcare here. Keep in mind though that because contract negotiations between UnitedHealthcare and certain physicians and therapists are still ongoing this list will likely change as the year progresses.
Dental (United Concordia) and vision (Highmark Blue Shield) insurance providers are remaining the same for the 2017-18 school year and, as far as we know, the change in insurance years (which will happen on September 1st) will have no effect on graduate employees.
Instructions for Enrolling
According to the email Penn State sent out to graduate employees on August 18th, the process for enrolling in the healthcare plan differs depending on your assistantship and citizenship status, so please read the following carefully.
Domestic graduate assistants and graduate fellows: If you are only interested in single coverage, you need to take no further steps to get coverage (see below if you have dependents). You are automatically enrolled in the insurance plan as part of your compensation package, you just need to emergency add yourself into the system to get an insurance card before October. If you do not want insurance coverage through Penn State, you must opt out of the insurance by completing the declination form here before September 5, 2017.
Domestic graduate assistants and graduate fellows with dependents: You are automatically enrolled in the plan because it’s part of your compensation package. However, if you want to add dependents to your plan, please go here. If you do not enroll your dependents, your insurance status will automatically be set to “single.”
International graduate assistants and fellows: In order to get coverage, complete the steps below (this can be done before or after requesting an emergency add from UHS):
Click “Waive Your School’s Insurance” on the right-hand side menu (second option below the “Student Tools” section). We understand that the wording is confusing, but by clicking “Waive” you are NOT forfeiting your access to Penn State’s student insurance plan.
Scroll down on the page to click “Waive Now” and enter your the details for your Penn State insurance or an alternate health insurance plan if you’re not using the one Penn State offers (see below for what to enter to get the Penn State insurance plan).
Yes to all waiver questions (again, NOT waiving the right to insurance).
Enter your insurance information or that of the Penn State plan if you want Penn State’s insurance. If you have your own insurance, be sure to enter what’s on your insurance card here. If you’re accepting Penn State’s insurance, please enter what’s entered below
Company Name: UHCSR
Company Mailing Address: P.O. Box 809025, Dallas, TX 75380-9025
Member ID: 000
Group #: 2017-547-2
Policyholder Member ID#: 000
Insurance Plan Type: PPO
Are you a graduate assistant/fellow? Yes/No
You should see a confirmation page that looks like this:
Keep in mind that if you are declining Penn State’s health insurance or need to enroll dependents in your plan, that must be done here by September 5, 2017. Additionally, if international students have not submitted insurance information by this date, they will have a hold placed on their account and will have to pay a late fee of $50 or $100 (Penn State does not specify how the fee amount is determined).
If you have any questions, please feel free to direct them to CGE and we’ll do our best to provide answers. Even as the administration refuses to do its job and disseminate easy-to-understand information, CGE will continue working to spread information and lessen confusion amongst graduate employees during these difficult times.
The Coalition of Graduate Employees