A Modest Proposal:
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Beyond its being an economic fact of life, it should be an embarrassment to all of us that some foreign graduate students find it less expensive to stop work and fly home to get dental care, rather than to seek help locally. The differential in the cost of care offsets the roundtrip airfare. A student I encountered in the last few weeks almost did not make it back to MIT after such a dental saga because of a visa issue. Another student I was told about suffered for a month with a toothache before he could make arrangements to fly to Eastern Europe and back.
For a provider of dental care, it is hard to reconcile the disparity between medical and dental insurance offerings for students. No doubt, there are more important aspects of life for MIT and for each individual member of this community than teeth or dental health. But it is remarkable how attention getting such concerns can become for anyone in the throes of a dental misfortune. Certainly time lost due to illness is the same whether the problem is medical or dental.
Presumably, a college or university is “about” its student body. How then does one explain the anomaly that at the Institute, students comprise the only sub-set of our population that goes without the benefit of a dental insurance offering?
Would the administrators at MIT who, as a temporary measure, brokered a discounted rate for dental care for our graduate students at a local dental school think it was optimal to send their own sons or daughters across the river to be treated by undergraduate dental students rather than to get care on campus, at MIT’s own Dental Service?
In this brief essay, I would like to make the “modest proposal” that MIT break new ground and do something novel and innovative: design a capitated insurance plan that provides a baseline level of care for all students, such that premature loss of teeth need not be part of the price of an MIT degree. Then, in the next capital campaign, seek one or more donors who would be willing to underwrite the cost of such a plan and make it self sustaining.
Endowed care may be not as visible as real estate, but some enlightened donors might feel that supporting such a plan would be a meaningful display of generosity. I am convinced that an individual who arrived at MIT as a student from overseas with significant unmet dental needs, who was able to retain his or her teeth because of such an endowed program of education and care might (upon striking it rich, as some do) be no less grateful to MIT than a student who lived in a dormitory endowed by a generous donor.
I don’t know what it takes to generate discussion regarding such a matter, but in submitting this essay to the Newsletter I am trying to attract some attention to this issue. I hope that members of the Community with feelings about this issue will speak up.
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