Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Grad School Family Series: Insurances

So there are lots of different types of insurances, but I want to talk about health insurance first, since it was complicated for us and frustrating.

Since neither of us were BYU students and Matt wasn't a Princeton student yet, Matt and Madeleine both were uninsured for this summer. BYU did offer us an extremely expensive option for them to stay on BYU insurance after we graduated, but it was so much that we didn't even consider it. I was still on my parent's insurance, so thankfully we didn't have to worry about me that summer.

Through Esurance, Matt was able to find cheap, temporary health insurance. It was awful insurance, but if anything cost more than $10,000 in those two and half months, we were fine. The fact that it was only like $65 for the two and half months made it affordable. 

Madeleine was the tricky one. We had originally planned for her to also get temporary insurance, but her health was not great. She had already been hospitalized twice for severe ear infections, and the doctor had warned us that if it happened again, she would need surgery for ear tubes. We could not afford the surgery or a 3-5 day stay in the hospital, so the short term insurance was not going to cut it. So we applied for medicaid in Utah and put her on that for the summer.

I know people have mixed feelings about government help, but this was absolutely the best choice for our family at this time. 

For anyone who is not familiar with the process for applying to Medicaid, know that it's hard and long. There are so many forms and papers to submit. I also had to attend a class about Medicaid - what doctors we could see, where we could take her to, the process for coverage etc. Thankfully in Utah, the medicaid program is wonderful. We still got to keep Madeleine's pediatrician and if she had needed tubes while we were there, she would have been able to see the doctor that did my sinus surgery a few years back. Luckily, she was relatively healthy during those two and half months, so other than her 6 month vaccines we didn't have to see the doctor.

Then we moved to New Jersey in July. Long story short, while Matt was immediately covered by Princeton, Madeleine's paper work was messed up and we found out that she wouldn't be able to get on Princeton's health insurance until September. She got an ear infection the second week we moved here, and after one trip to urgent care, we started the application for New Jersey's medicaid. Our experience was the opposite of Utah. While the paper work and forms were still long, the medical care was horrific at best. I'm not going to go into details, but I just want to say, I have so much more compassion for the poor and elderly after sitting in full waiting rooms for 3-4 hours at to see a crappy doctor for 10 minutes. Those experiences were seriously life changing, and I can't tell you how grateful I am for the slightly less crappy Princeton insurance.

The reason I'm telling you all this is that health insurance seemed pretty straightforward to us when we were looking at the options right after Madeleine was born. It didn't turn out though the way we thought. I strongly urge anyone that has a family to look at all the options and have a backup, if not two. Also, don't just count on medicaid. Most grad students do qualify for it, but as I learned, in some states the appeal of having free healthcare is not worth the subpar doctors.

Also look at the health insurances that the schools offer. This might require a lot of searching. But in the end, the information is somewhere on the internet. It's important to find it because health insurance can be a major hidden cost of graduate school. 

For example..Princeton and Northwestern have the same health insurance, but Princeton subsidizes it a lot. Insurance for me at Northwestern would be $510 a month and $319 a month per kid. At Princeton, I'm $170 and each kid is $85 a month.

For many schools, health insurance was the deal breaker for me when I was screening through schools. I wanted to make sure that we had it and that we could pay for it. This varied so much from school to school. The school with the best health insurance was free for the whole family, and the most expensive was floating over $1,000 a month. I had to call schools sometimes to ask where the plan for families was on the internet (which was really confusing to the secretaries, "...And you aren't a current student?"), but it was completely worth knowing the cost and insurance ahead of time.

There are other kinds of insurance other than health, and we thankfully found them to be very straight forward.

Car insurance is a little weird in some states, but we were able to get a quote for each school we were considering with our current insurance company before we made a decision. We quickly realized that in some places that between paying for a parking spot and car insurance that we should just sell Lance.

All the universities that I looked at required renter's insurance for on-campus housing. It's $10 a month for us.

 Life insurance is important. You should get it.

And I think that's it. :)

I'm really excited about the next post about our budget. I can't find any for families on the internet, and honestly I love talking about budgeting.

The Grad School Family Series
Our budget
Buying furniture and clothes
Menu planning and food management
Shopping for food
Affording a baby
Making friends
Family Time


  1. First off, this was very interesting information, and I'm glad to know it.

    I'd like to comment on the "mixed feelings about government help."
    Even those opposed to government interference in health care should not be ashamed to use those programs if necessary.
    Yes, without the government's meddling in health care, health insurance and care would likely be affordable on its own (speaking as a fiscal conservative). But the fact is, that government meddling exists, medicare is there, this is the system we are presently stuck with, and there should be no cognitive dissonance in operating rationally within the existing system personally while publicly advocating a better one.

    1. I completely agree with your whole comment. Unfortunately there seems to be a huge shame complex for many middle class people that happen to find themselves needing medicaid. It's something that I blame the media mostly for since when they discuss the problems with medicaid, they frequently blame the people that are on it, not the system. That's part of the reason I wanted to write this post. :) Thanks for the comment. I always love reading what you have to say.