BU Dental No Longer Available For MIT Students

The Boston University Student Dental Plan will not be available to members of the MIT community this academic year. The plan had been the least expensive of the options available to students in the area and remains open to those enrolled in a number of other local colleges and universities. The Housing and Community Affairs subcommittee of the Graduate Student Council is exploring replacement options.

Paula K. Friedman, the dean responsible for enrollment and administration at the BUSDP, told Graduate Student Council President Leeland B. Ekstrom G that administrators chose not to enroll MIT students this year because they believed it was not “meeting the needs of MIT students,” Ekstrom said.

According to information provided by Ekstrom, Friedman said that BU had received a number of complaints and cancellations from MIT students over the past year. Asked if the decision might be reversed, Friedman said that there would be the possibility of revisiting the issue in coming years, Ekstrom said. Friedman was not available for comment.

The BU student insurance plan cost $240 last year and covered care including two cleanings, basic inspections, diagnostic X-rays, and some fillings. Root canals and more complex procedures were available at additional cost. MIT Medical offers its own full-care dental service; however, treatment is not covered by any of the MIT Student Health plans.

Deborah A. Boyd, patient accounts assistant at MIT Medical, said that the MIT Dental service provides about 12,000 visits a year, of which about 30 percent are graduate and undergraduate students.

In response to concern about the dental service’s ability to handle an increase in volume this year, Boyd said, “We’re not short-staffed. I don’t anticipate it being difficult for anyone to get an appointment, especially if it’s an emergency.”

The GSC has been looking into solutions for student dental care for some years, but “now that the BU plan has been cancelled … it’s a top priority,” said Tanguy M. Chau G, GSC Housing and Community Affairs Committee co-chair. Among the options under consideration are negotiating access for MIT students to the Tufts or Harvard Student dental plans, or finding a way to insure students affordably at the MIT Dental Service. However, Chau stressed that all proposals are in preliminary stages and that the GSC is trying to “better assess the current cost of dental services for grad students and quantify the extent to which dental insurance would benefit the graduate student population.”

Ekstrom explained that there had been problems with MIT offering a dental plan in the past. To be affordable, an insurance plan would require a large subscriber base, which would mostly likely require mandatory participation.

Boyd said it was standard for dental care to be excluded from insurance plans, including such behemoths as Blue Cross Blue Shield. “There has always been a fee for this kind of service … even though you would think dentistry was just another specialty like ‘internal medicine,’” Boyd said.

Students also receive a 10 percent discount at MIT Medical. Boyd suggested that it would not be more expensive to pay for dental care at MIT on a fee basis than to pay for the BU insurance plan. “I think people went there thinking that they’d get a real bargain, [and then] found it wasn’t as convenient and cost effective,” Boyd said.