Health Insurance FAQ

Many of you have had questions about the Student Health Plan (SHP) and the separate dental and vision coverage available through the University.

To try to help clear things up, here’s a short guide and FAQ! We will try to keep this FAQ updated as more questions come up.


TLDR? Students generally find themselves in one of the following situations:

  • I am enrolled for 7 or more credits and need health insurance
    • The university will automatically enroll you in the SHP
  • I am enrolled for 7 or more credits and already have health insurance
    • The university will still automatically enroll you in the SHP! You must manually opt out through WISER, usually by October 1st
  • I am enrolled for less than 7 credits and need health insurance
    • Contact Shirley Condon at shirley.condon@umb.edu and ask her to enroll you in the SHP (ATTN advanced students, you will need to remember to do this once you are on program fee and no longer taking courses!!)
  • I am enrolled for less than 7 credits and already have health insurance
    • You are good to go, don’t do a thing (though monitor your bill in case the university makes a mistake… it’s been known to happen)
  • Remember, how much you will need to pay for SHP coverage is related to your graduate assistantship (e.g., full time, ¾ time, or half time) and not the number of credits you are taking (see the table below for more info)

  • Where can I find information about SHP coverage?
    • The SHP’s coverage term is August 1st – July 31st. The enrollment deadline is usually October 1st, so coverage is retroactive to August 1st
  • How do I sign up for the SHP?
    • The university automatically enrolls all students over 7 credits in the SHP
    • If you are taking fewer than 7 credits, you have to manually sign up for the SHP. You can’t do this through Wiser. Contact Shirley Condon in the Bursar’s Office to request it at shirley.condon@umb.edu
  • Do I have to sign up for the SHP?
    • Students enrolled at 75% of a full-time curriculum load (i.e., 7 credits or more) are required to HAVE health insurance coverage. This is why the University automatically enrolls students with at least 7 credits in the SHP
    • Under certain conditions, students can opt out of (waive) the SHP if they already have health insurance coverage (read below)

  • I already have health insurance. Do I still have to enroll in the SHP?
    • If you have an equivalent health insurance plan through another source AND are enrolled in at least 7 credits, you WILL still be enrolled in the SHP automatically. You must manually opt-out of the student health plan through WISER to avoid being charged for it.
    • The deadline to waive the SHP is usually October 1st for Fall students and March 1st for Spring students
    • Usually, students will only do this if they are under the age of 26 and are still able to be covered under their parent’s health insurance plan or are covered by a spouse/partner’s plan. Otherwise, obtaining a comparable insurance plan is often more expensive than the subsidized SHP plan
  • I’m not taking 7 credits, how does this all affect me?
    • If you are taking fewer than 7 credits, you will not be enrolled in the SHP automatically
    • If you want to enroll in the SHP, you still can. As long as you are enrolled at UMass Boston and either taking classes or are on program fee (dissertating phase), you are eligible for the SHP. However, you won’t be able to sign up through WISER. Email Shirley Condon at shirley.condon@umb.edu and ask to be enrolled
  • I have MassHealth. Do I still need to sign up for the SHP?
    • MassHealth coverage is a unique case
    • If you have the following types of MASS Health, you cannot waive the SHP: Mass Health Limited, Health Safety Net, or Children’s Medical Security Plan
    • If you are covered by another MassHealth vector, MassHealth Premium Assistance may cover the SHP premium. To see if you are eligible, identify that you have MassHealth when prompted during the submission of your Waiver Form on your WISER System
  • Does UMB pay for the SHP for graduate employees?
    • The University pays a portion of the cost of the SHP up to a pre-specified amount. The portion paid depends on whether your graduate position is full time (18 hours) or part time (13.5 for ¾ time or 9 for ½ time)
    • For example, a full time graduate assistant is eligible for 85% coverage of the SHP cost, up to a total amount of $1780. This student must then pay the additional 15% up to $1780 plus any additional cost of the plan over $1780

  • Ok, so how much is the SHP going to actually cost me?
    • We’ve come up with the handy table below, based on SHP costs for the plan that is effective 8/1/20-7/31/21
 AY 2020-2021 SHP costMaximum amount university pays (with cap max of 85%)Maximum amount student pays
Full Time$2,772$1,780$992
3/4th time$2,772$1,335$1,437
1/2$2,772$890$1,882

  • I’m not enrolling at UMB until the Spring semester. Do I have to pay for the entire year of SHP?
    • No. New students can enroll for and pay for only the second half of the year. For the current SHP (2020-21), this health insurance is effective 1/1/21-7/31/21 and costs $1,624.
    • Please note that students enrolled for the entire academic year may not be able to enroll for only the Spring semester, except if certain circumstances caused you to lose their prior insurance coverage partway through the year. Contact Shirley Condon regarding your specific situation at shirley.condon@umb.edu
  • I keep hearing about waivers and credits and deductions and WISER is confusing. Can you explain this?
    • Waivers, credits, and more are all applied in October. They will not reflect on your account until then. The university applies a credit immediately for the fall and then wait to apply the spring credit until February, but WISER will show that a credit is coming. The Spring credit is based on you maintaining the same appointment in the spring semester.
    • WISER now offers a way to estimate your total bill. In WISER, select “Finance Center”, then “Account Summary.” The amount shown here, should be what you will owe after credits are applied. This can also be beneficial if signing up for payroll deduction! 
  • What about late fees? If I want to wait to pay until after the waiver is applied, am I going to receive a late-fee?
    • If you pay the amount shown in your “Account Summary”, you should be fine to avoid late fees.
    • If you aren’t comfortable with this amount, the university has recently they have charged one late fee of (we think) $100 (previously, you were charged a late fee each month you were in arrears)
    • Since it is difficult to forecast your full bill while you are waiting for waivers and credits to be applied, putting a partial payment of at least $500 in September is usually enough to prevent a late fee being applied on Oct 1st. Then, if you do have a late fee, the bursar will usually refund it.
  • If you still aren’t sure what to do, contact Becky Hanson in Grad Studies (rebecca.hanson@umb.edu) and she can calculate the amount of your total bill.
  • How do I get Vision and Dental Health Insurance?
    • Neither dental or vision coverage is included in the SHP. If you would like to enroll in these plans, you must do so separately and manually. See the Dental Coverage and Vision Coverage sections below for more information

Dental and Vision Coverage

  • Unlike health insurance, dental and vision coverage is not required by law
  • Both the dental and vision plans are separate from SHP and enrollment is not automatic as it is with the SHP and cannot be done through WISER
  • As a GEO member, you will get a partial refund for the cost, maybe as much as $150 (for Dental) or $92.50 (for Vision) if you are a full time GA (using 2020 costs).  This refund is usually processed in October and will show up on your Pay Stub as a taxable benefit. Keep an eye on your stubs via the HR direct system (https://hr.umb.edu/hr-direct)
  • To enroll or view benefit details for the plans, go to the university health services website (https://www.universityhealthplans.com/letters/letter.cgi?group_id=329)
    • Look for the Dental and Vision programs on the left under the heading “Optional Plans”. 
      • Students can choose from two dental options: Delta Care or the Total Choice PPO
      • VSP Vision Care is the only option for eye care (note that the SHP covers one adult eye exam every 2 years)
  • Please note that these plans appear to only offer coverage from November 1 – August 31st of any given year. The enrollment deadline is usually early- to mid-October

What if I need extra help?

Contact GEO at geo@umb.edu