As an enrolled graduate student, you are covered under Berkeley's Student Health Insurance Plan, SHIP. What does this mean? This section describes the details of your health insurance, dental insurance, vision services, and post-graduation choices.
SHIP insurance is a group plan through Anthem Blue Cross. For SHIP services, you will need two cards: 1) your “Gold Card,” which you can get during your first visit to the Tang Center, and 2) an Anthem card, which will be sent to you by mail (probably a few months after you arrive).
When in the state of California, all of your health services must start with a GP at the Tang Center. The GP may then refer you to a specialist based at the Tang Center. Other services at the Tang Center include a pharmacy, physical therapist, mental health services, urgent care, optometrist (see below), and a SHIP office. For services outside of the Tang Center, permission must be obtained through the SHIP office in advance, except in the case of emergency room visits, which SHIP will cover without advance permission.
When you are not in the state of California, your health plan functions as a PPO, which means that your care can start with any provider (GP or specialist). SHIP will reimburse you for a percentage of your out-of-state expenses, based on the nature of the service and the provider.
SHIP insurance provides basic dental care (up to $1000 a year in coverage) through MetLife for cleanings every six months and most dental needs, including fillings, X-rays, wisdom teeth removal, etc. This service is provided outside the Tang Center, and the dental care website (company name: SHIP) provides a long list of dentists that are covered by the insurance. BADGrad-recommended dentists are listed here.
SHIP insurance also provides vision services through the UC Berkeley School of Optometry, operated out of the Tang Center and Minor Hall. The insurance covers a comprehensive eye exam once a year, as well as $120 towards glasses or contacts each year. Additionally, the School of Optometry gets discounts for some brands of contacts.
You will be insured by SHIP for only a little while after you graduate. The post-graduation information page gives exact dates. After these dates, it is no longer possible to be insured through UC Berkeley.
There are a number of options for insurance after your Berkeley insurance runs out. Typically, you will be joining group insurance with your future employer, but you should check with their HR department to find out when that insurance goes into effect. Your goal should be to always be part of a group insurance (ie through an employer), which is more comprehensive and more affordable than individual insurance. If your gap period between your SHIP coverage and your future insurance coverage is less than 63 days, conditions that develop during that period cannot be consider to be pre-existing (ie your new insurance cannot deny you coverage because of them).
This does not mean that you are retroactively covered during that gap period. If your SHIP coverage ends before your next insurance goes into effect, you will need short-term individual insurance to cover your medical expenses during that time. (For a gap period of 63 days or less, you could in principle be without insurance with no adverse affects to your long-term coverage; however, you will then have no insurance in the event of an emergency.) Individual plans can be purchased on-line through through Berkeley's insurance broker, Saylor and Hill by filling out a questionnaire and providing payment information. You can apply for multiple insurance plans at once and then have the opportunity to accept only one of them after applying.
For information about individual plans, the SHIP office has a nice spreadsheet and offers several information sessions towards the end of the semester. For additional information, you can call Kathy at the SHIP office at 510 642 5742. Note that the SHIP office does not schedule insurance inquiry appointments for walk-ins, so call first.