EmailsQuick Explainer

Quick Explainer: What’s the deal with Health Care?

If you missed our quick explainer yesterday on living wage, here it is. 

TL;DR: The high enrollment & out-of-pocket costs of our current health care plan leave graduate workers with hundreds to thousands of dollars in medical costs, which is especially discriminatory toward those who are chronically ill. We’re asking the university to automatically enroll students in the health care plan, cover the full costs of enrollment (right now it’s at 90%), reimburse students for out-of-pocket costs, and allow for enrollment in the faculty dental plan. These demands are well in line with other universities in the U.S., and other employees at NYU.

What are our current health care benefits? 

Currently, grad workers receive a 90% discount on premiums (or the enrollment costs) for the Basic Health Insurance Plan. The remaining 10% of enrollment costs falls on grad workers, in addition to out-of-pocket medical costs. These include co-insurance rates, co-pays for visits, prescription drugs, and durable medical devices (like crutches). Grad workers receive no university aid for out-of-pocket costs. Because of the high costs of healthcare, grad workers pay hundreds to thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs toward their medical expenses. 

When it comes to the health plan, a lot of grad workers are expected to pay upfront, and get reimbursed later. The enrollment cost for coverage under the Comprehensive Plan for the Spring semester is $2487. Most workers pay the enrollment cost in full and then wait months for NYU to give them back their 90% discount. That means workers pay thousands upfront, giving NYU a no-interest loan, and then wait to get their money back. The enrollment isn’t automatic, and NYU can unilaterally make changes to our healthcare plan without union consultation. 

Doctoral workers who have dependents can receive a 75% discount on premiums (or the costs of enrollment) for the Basic Health Insurance Plan, which is limited to a $200,000 pooled fund. Currently, the dependents of Masters workers get nothing.

While working in a union position, grad workers are enrolled in Stu-Dent, which only covers routine exams and cleanings—no root canals, wisdom teeth, nor any other complications. Grad workers have no access to the faculty dental plan. 

What are we asking for in our new contract? 

We’re asking for 100% coverage of premiums (or the costs of enrollment) for all health insurance plans, and 90% coverage of premiums for grad workers’ dependents. 

We’re asking for reimbursement of out-of-pocket costs like co-pays, prescriptions, and co-insurance, and full coverage of all dental care and procedures through Stu-Dent as well as premium coverage for the faculty dental plan. We’re also asking that grad workers be automatically enrolled in the health care plan, and that no changes be made to the health care plan without union consultation. 

How does this compare to grad workers’ health care plans at other universities, and to other NYU employees?

Our demands for full coverage of premiums, aid with out of pocket costs, enrollment in the faculty dental plan, and our demand that the university consults the union before making changes to our health care plan are well in line with other universities in the U.S., and other employees at NYU. 

Graduate workers at the University of California, for instance, have their premiums covered 100% and have access to a typical UC employee dental plan. 

Graduate workers at the University of Michigan have their dependents enrolled and covered in the health plan at no additional cost. They also have specific coverage for gender-affirming trans healthcare and partial coverage for fertility treatment. 

Adjuncts at NYU are eligible for the faculty dental plan, and UMass graduate workers cannot have their plan changed without bargaining except as mandated by state or federal laws or regulations. 

How has NYU responded to our demands? 

NYU continues to offer a 90% discount on premiums for the Basic or Comprehensive Health Insurance Plans, making workers pay the full cost upfront and wait to get reimbursed. They expanded the eligibility for 75% reimbursements on premiums for the Basic or Comprehensive Health Insurance Plans to include dependents of all GSOC workers, but the fund paying out those reimbursements is still limited to $200,000. So now more people would be competing for the same amount of money as before.

NYU offered to use the left-over money from the $200,000 dependent health insurance fund (spoiler alert: we did the math and there won’t be any money left over) to pay for dental procedures through Stu-Dent. This is a smoke and mirrors proposal.

While the current health care plan leaves all grad workers with financial burdens, it is especially devastating for grad workers who are chronically ill, and for grad workers with dependents. If one hospital visit leaves a grad worker making under 40,000 dollars a year with a few thousand dollars in costs, multiple hospital visits can leave grad workers in tens of thousands of dollars in medical debt. 

Most graduate workers are in their programs for 5-7 years, but the current plan makes it nearly impossible to raise, support, and care for dependents or a family. By refusing to bargain with us on our health care plan, dental plan, costs for dependents, and out of pocket costs, NYU asks us to work as teachers, researchers, graders, and admins on low wages, burdened by medical costs, and unable to support a family or dependents.

We’re voting to strike because the current health care plan shows that the university doesn’t care about graduate workers’ health, or the financial burdens of medical costs. 

If you worked a unit bargaining position in 2020 or are working this semester (includes J-term 2021) you are eligible to vote in the strike vote and should have received a ballot. The email was from “Local 2110” and would have been sent to your NYU email (search “Local 2110” in your inbox).

Eligible to vote but never got an email? Reach out to

And check out our strike hub for more info!
View this email in your browser