Cost of health insurance is causing an immediate financial crisis for postdoctoral researchers with families
Dear Stanford Provost,
We wish to bring to your attention the dramatic increase in health care insurance premiums that disproportionately affects a subset of the postdoctoral community, namely the 15% of us who must also insure a spouse and/or children. We request timely attention from the university for this unsustainable financial situation.
The monthly cost of health insurance premiums for postdocs with dependents has increased by 50% since last year. Currently, the Family Healthcare Fund offered by the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs provides the only financial relief ($75 - $120 per month) as a subsidy fund for qualifying postdocs (those with children). This amount, however, is not sufficient. Overall, the monthly cost of family insurance can be as high as $700, constituting 20-25% of the take-home salary ($2800-$3500) for Stanford postdocs. The financial burden of these premiums far exceed the postdoc’s capacity to pay for them, resulting in some families that are in desperate need of assistance. The rest of us are frustrated at the sight of our friends and co-workers under such duress.
We understand that the health care premiums have increased for all faculty, staff, and students, and we appreciate that the University absorbs approximately 90% of the total health care cost for postdoctoral scholars. However, the remaining 10% of the total cost, roughly $140,000, is paid entirely by postdocs with dependents. It is important to note that our fellow colleagues working at neighboring institutions, such as UCSF, also faced increased costs, but these costs were largely absorbed by the institution and did not marginalize a small subset of postdocs. Considering the emphasis on family-friendly policies at Stanford, we hope that the University will act quickly to change this situation.
While we are open to any action to reduce this enormous burden, we would like to offer you some suggestions to consider:
A) Incorporation of postdocs into the faculty healthcare plans, or re-classification of postdocs as staff, so that claims can be offset by the larger pool, lowering their overall impact.
B) Putting a cap on the health care insurance premiums at 8% of salary and allowing postdocs to pay for these costs with pre-tax dollars.
C) Increasing the Family Healthcare Fund to $300 and expanding its eligibility to cover ALL postdocs with dependents.
It is crucial for the University to realize that health care coverage that requires 20-25% of a postdoc’s salary is unsustainable and severely compromises postdoctoral life. Healthy postdocs, currently covered by the Stanford plan, are switching to cheaper (and riskier) private health insurance plans. The disappearance of healthy postdocs from the remaining pool will magnify the anticipated price increase for the coming year. We are hopeful that the University will act rapidly to end the suffering of postdoctoral scholars with families and to increase the collective productivity of the postdoctoral community.
On behalf of the Stanford postdoctoral community,
Co-Chairs of Stanford University Postdoctoral Association, SUPD