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Health Insurance Benefit for Graduate Assistants

Graduate School > Administration > Graduate Assistants > Health Insurance Benefit

GRADUATE ASSISTANT HEALTH BENEFIT

 
GENERAL INFORMATION

For many years, the university has made available a high quality student health insurance plan which provides superior benefits at a very affordable price to enrolled students, both undergraduate and graduate. As part of our continuing dedication to reviewing all student benefits and improving and expanding them whenever possible, we saw that there was an opportunity to make health insurance part of the package of benefits that is offered to graduate assistants who are supported by the university.

Starting in fall 2006, the University of Alabama has provided no cost single coverage health insurance to all of its qualifying graduate assistants who are funded from permanently budgeted GA lines, if the graduate assistant applies for this benefit by the specified deadline.

Qualifying graduate assistants who choose to remain covered by another insurance policy are not required to participate in this program. Graduate assistants who otherwise qualify but are not funded from permanently budgeted GA lines may have the cost of their single coverage paid from other University sources, as described in the sections below.

The period of coverage will be for a semester and will be renewed as long as the Graduate Assistant meets the eligibility requirements.

This program will not affect the provision of the Student Health Insurance Plan offered by the University, which will continue to be available for other qualifying students to purchase independently.

Graduate assistants who qualify for single coverage insurance under this program will have the option to extend the coverage to their family, as defined in the policy document from the insurance provider. The additional cost must be paid directly to the Student Health Center.

The Graduate Assistant Health Benefit is NOT available for the following:

  • Graduate Fellowships
  • Graduate Scholarships
  • Bi-weekly appointed Student Assistants
  • Interim or Summer Graduate Assistants (but see below)



QUALIFYING ASSISTANTS

This benefit may be made available to all teaching, research, and other full time graduate assistants, and will be funded by the Graduate School for graduate assistants funded from permanently budgeted GA lines. (See “Permanently Budgeted GA Lines” below).

Where the assistantship requires 20 or more hours of work per week in the department (0.50 FTE), the student will be eligible for full single coverage. If the assistant is working between 10 and 19 hours per week (0.25 – 0.49 FTE), they will receive prorated benefit & from UA between half and full coverage. No coverage is available for appointments of less than 10 hours (below 0.25 FTE).

The graduate assistant with less than full eligibility must pay for the difference at the time of sign up along with any additional family coverage purchased.

When assessing a student’s entitlement to receive this benefit, the combined FTE of ALL permanently budgeted assistantships to which the student has been appointed may be combined to calculate the level of benefit. Non-permanent assistantships may not be combined.
The University can and may amend, delete, or expand these qualifying criteria at any time however no change can be back-dated and will not become effective until the start of the next policy cycle.



PERMANENTLY BUDGETED GA LINES

This benefit is paid by the Graduate School only for assistants supported on permanently budgeted GA lines. These are funds allocated from Academic Affairs to colleges, which may only be used for paying assistantship stipends, and are based on a fixed number of full time assistantships and the university’s minimum stipend rates.

If you are unsure whether your lines are permanently budgeted please check with your college finance or budget manager or with the Graduate School.

The Graduate School already has detailed criteria for students to receive assistantships and generally as long as the student continues to meet those criteria and retains his or her assistantship then the health insurance benefit will apply.

Departments do not need to complete any additional forms for health insurance for permanent GA's - health benefits are processed with tuition scholarships through the online GA-TOPS system.

Dean’s offices may elect to allocate these funds to departments each year based upon their own criteria and objectives, however departments may not use their own overhead or gift budgets to increase the number of permanently budgeted lines.



OTHER DEPARTMENTALLY FUNDED GA LINES

Departments may use their own non-permanent funds to provide their own additional graduate assistantships. This includes funds such as departmental or research overhead, gift accounts, state release dollars, etc. While there is no requirement to provide tuition scholarships with these types of awards, the department is permitted to use funds from the same source to cover a tuition award at their discretion. Similarly, if funds are available from the same source as the assistantship, the department may, at its discretion pay for health insurance under the same terms and conditions as the permanently budgeted assistants. The same qualifying criteria for all permanently budgeted assistantships will apply.

The current semester cost that will be charged to departments for providing full single coverage under this program is shown on the Student Health Center website.

Where departments elect to fund the health benefit for their G.A.'s, they will need to process that award with the tuition scholarship through the GA-TOPS system.

SPONSORED PROGRAMS

In the same way that departments may choose to use their own funds to cover the cost of the health insurance for their GA’s, with sufficient budget available and PI and Office for Sponsored Programs (OSP) Financial Services approval that the charge is allowable, assistants on sponsored programs may also receive this benefit as a charge to the grant. Please be aware that the OSP policy on Tuition, Stipends and Other Student Payment found at http://osp.ua.edu/contract_grantaccounting.html
applies to payments for this health insurance.

The current semester cost that will be charged to contracts and grants for providing full single coverage under this program is shown on the Student Health Center website.

Where a sponsored program fund is used to cover the cost of health insurance for GA's, departments will process that award with the tuition scholarship through the GA-TOPS system.



INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS

The university requires that all enrolled international students must have medical insurance coverage. The student account is normally automatically charged for this insurance in the Fall and Spring semesters and the student is required to pay for it themselves or provide proof to the Student Health Center that they have their own coverage at least equal to UA's required coverage in order to waive that cost.

Qualified international graduate students who receive the UA free health insurance may substitute this benefit to satisfy the international student insurance requirement. Each student must still formally accept this benefit by applying for the medical insurance coverage at the Student Health Center Insurance Office, as detailed below. If the student elects not to receive this benefit, they must decline the offer and, as an International student, show proof of alternative coverage to the Student Health Insurance Office, Room 210, new Student Health Center, 750 Fifth Avenue East.



STUDENT ENROLLMENT

While the student may be qualified to receive the benefit under the terms of his or her appointment, the student is still required to formally enroll in the program through the Student Health Center. Generally, in qualifying to hold graduate assistantships, the students will satisfy the academic enrollment requirements for the health insurance program.

Enrollment forms will be distributed by each department with the Memorandum of Appointment. Additional copies of the form can be obtained from the Student Health Center website.

Important:
To complete the registration of each student's health benefits they must take their enrollment form (or their waiver form if they are not accepting the award) to the Student Health Center before the end of each semester's open enrollment period (OEP), which is:

  • For Fall semester: August 31st,
  • For Spring semester: January 21st.

If the GA receives this benefit for the fall semester, the coverage will run for six months from August 1st through January 31st. If the GA continues to receive it or is newly appointed for the spring semester, the coverage will run from February 1st through July 31st.

SUMMER GA HEALTH INSURANCE

Remember, no permanent GA appointments in the summer and therefore there is nothing to process for health insurance. GA's have insurance coverage started with their spring assistantships which run through the summer.

However, non-permanent and sponsored GA's may have separate summer appointment. We can have the following situations:

  • Where a student has not held a benefits-qualifying assistantship previously and is assigned a new benefits qualifying assistantship for the first time for the summer, or
  • Where a student is incoming newly admitted graduate student for the summer and is being appointed to a benefits-qualifying assistantship, or
  • Where a student held a non-benefits-qualifying assistantship for the spring and who is now appointed to a benefits-qualifying assistantship for the summer.

You do NOT process the health insurance awards through the GA-TOPS systems. Under these situations the student will complete a United Health Care "Voluntary Enrollment Form for Domestic Students and Their Dependents" (NOT the GA Enrollment Form) and take the completed form to the UA department which is paying the insurance cost. The form can be downloaded from the UA SHC website at: http://cchs.ua.edu/shc/files/2010/07/UHC-2010-2011-Enrollment-Form-for-Domestic-Students-and-Dependents.pdf.

The department will then complete a Summer GA Health Insurance Scholarship Form with the appropriate FOAPAL and take both forms to John Chambers in the Graduate School, Box 870118.

DECLINING COVERAGE

Any domestic or permanent resident graduate student who qualifies to receive this benefit does not have to accept it; for example, he or she, or their spouse, may already have membership in a health plan and wish to continue that plan. In this situation, the otherwise qualified and approved student must still complete the enrollment form for this program but will indicate on the form that they are declining the coverage.

International students are still subject to the health insurance requirements as detailed above.



TERMINATIONS AND WITHDRAWALS

Termination of an assistantship either by the student or by the department prior to the end of the open enrollment period will trigger automatic disqualification from the no cost insurance benefit. Similarly, when a student withdraws from all classes or drops his or her registration below the required minimum hours prior to the same date, then the free insurance benefit is terminated. Students will have the option in this situation to continue the coverage but at his or her own cost.

International students in this situation will be required to purchase the university’s health insurance or provide proof that they have their own coverage at least equal to the University’s required level.

For all students, coverage will continue through the remainder of the period where termination or withdrawal takes place after the end of the open enrollment period.




APPROVAL PROCESS

1. Permanently Budgeted Assistantships.

  1. Graduate School will use the Tuition Award System as the basis for identifying all permanently budgeted and qualified assistantships.
  2. Graduate School office will forward lists of approved students to Student Health Center.
  3. Departments will be responsible for maintaining GA tuition and health insurance awards on the GA-TOPS system, including all additions, deletions, and changes to permanently budgeted assistantship lists.
  4. Departments MUST update GA-TOPS immediately for all terminations.

2. Departmental Funded Assistantships.

  1. Departments will update GA-TOPS for all Health Insurance awards for all assistants supported on non- permanent lines and who will receive health coverage funded by the department.
  2. Departments will record the FOAP for the charge for providing the health insurance.
  3. Graduate School will verify the assistantship qualifying criteria and then forward approved awards to Student Receivables.

3. Sponsored Program Assistantships.

  1. Departments will update GA-TOPS for all Health Insurance Awards including the FOAP to which the insurance cost is allocable, for all assistants supported on external contracts and grants and where the agreement allows the allocation of budget to pay for health insurance.
  2. Sponsored Programs Financial Services will review the charge for allowability and sufficient funds and if approved, record their approval on GA-TOPS.
  3. Graduate School forwards awards to the Student Receivables.

4. Student Health Center.

  1. Receive enrollment forms from students and verify entitlement to participate in program.
  2. Delete participants from programs where appropriate and as notified.
  3. Verification will be made against lists from Graduate School, forms from Graduate School, and forms from Sponsored Programs.
  4. SHC will record their approval of awards and register student's acceptance on the GA-TOPS system.
  5. Any unapproved applications must be checked with appropriate source – permanently and departmental funded assistants with John Chambers, Graduate School, sponsored programs funded assistants with Tammy Hudson.



CONTACT INFORMATION

  • Information about the program, coverage, and the provider can be found at the Student Health Center website.
  • For any inquiries about this program and how it will operate, the processes and procedures to be followed, please contact the appropriate person below:
    • Permanently Budgeted and Departmental Funded Assistants: John Chambers, Director of Administration, Graduate School
    • Sponsored Programs Assistants: Tammy Hudson, Sponsored Programs Financial Services
    • Student Health Center: Shavonne Stines, Student Health Insurance Office

 

 


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