Students displeased with change in Health and Dental Plan coverage, Students’ Union to bring it to referendum

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Wilfrid Laurier University’s Students’ Union has received an influx of criticism from students regarding the changes to the Health and Dental Plan, with many taking to @SpottedLaurier on Twitter to voice their displeasure.

“When the hell did the student insurance plan change? Shouldn’t students union have been transparent about the changes in coverage? We have to pay so much more out of pocket,” one tweet read.

Another student demanded answers from the Students’ Union, saying that “accessibility to vital medications should never be compromised.”

“I am on the student health plan and I went to the pharmacy to pick up prescription medications which have previously been fully covered by the insurance. I was told that they were no longer fully covered and I had to pay for the remainder,” the tweet read.

“I found out through my doctor at the Wellness Centre that these changes were made by a vote. WHOSE VOTE? Definitely not the people who are directly impacted!” the tweet continued. 

The “vote” refers to the student referendum question that was asked during the 2020-21 SU election period, which asked students to vote on an increase  fees for the Health and Dental Plan. 

The referendum question was posed as follows: “Do you support authorizing the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union Board of Directors to consider increases to the Students’ Union Health and Dental Plan fees? Increases may only be considered at the request of the Students’ Union President and Chief Executive Officer based on a reasonable need to stabilize the premium adjustments and will not exceed 8% beyond the cost of inflation.” 

In the Nov. 6 Students’ Union board meeting, it was reported that the referendum question failed with approximately 57 per cent of voters answering “no.”

“It was disheartening because we think the [plan] is such a good profit for students. It does hit a lot of the highlights to help keep a student healthy and it has always been referendum driven. So, we really do want students to have their say.”

Kelly Lee, Director of member services

Kelly Lee, director of member services at the Students’ Union, explained that the referendum question was posed after the SU’s arrangement with the Wellness Centre fell through. 

“In January, we were notified that our longstanding relationship with the Wellness Centre to provide students with oral contraceptives had ended and it was no longer accessible to the Wellness Centre.”

According to @SUFeedback on Twitter, “external supplier decisions” outside of their control is what ended the low cost availability of oral contraceptives.

“So, students came to the Students’ Union, expressed their concerns and asked what we could do, including [if] we [could] put that benefit onto our student plan,” Lee said.

“Unfortunately, the question that was going to referendum was asking for support to sustain the benefits we already had, and when that referendum question didn’t go through, adding oral contraceptive at that time was not financially feasible.”

“We had to take steps to try and figure out how we could offer this benefit to students while also balancing the viability of the current plan,” Lee added.

Lee said the Students’ Union was disheartened to see the referendum question fail.

“It was disheartening because we think the [plan] is such a good profit for students. It does hit a lot of the highlights to help keep a student healthy and it has always been referendum driven. So, we really do want the students to have their say.”

Another student took to @SpottedLaurier to say, “For those complaining about loss of health coverage, it was due to a referendum question last January which students voted against. We played ourselves.”

The complaints have yet to cease. Some students are expressing their displeasure with the Health and Dental Plan being mandatory for anyone who can’t prove that they are insured elsewhere. 

“We don’t have the choice to opt out of the student health plan to instead receive coverage through OHIP+ SO AT THE VERY LEAST WE DESERVE A VOICE AND A VOTE,” one tweet read. 

The Health and Dental Plan includes drug coverage, extended health coverage, vision coverage, dental coverage, travel coverage and accident coverage. 

“If you were to cost out what a plan would be in the private sector, it’s extremely more expensive than what a student plan costs. I do feel that what is offered to students is still very beneficial and it should cover the highlights that every student can take advantage of to try and stay healthy,” Lee said. 

“Each year when the Health and Dental Plan Fee is decided, it can only increase by the cost of living, which has generally been around 2 per cent each year and insurance companies budget for around an 11 per cent increase each year, so that significantly impacts the way that we can offer a plan,” Lee said.

Lee also made the distinction between services that are offered by the Wellness Centre and services that are offered as a part of the Health and Dental Plan. 

The Laurier Health and Counseling Fee, an incidental fee that is charged to all students, encompasses the services that are provided by the Wellness Centre.

Health and Dental Plan also includes some mental health support coverage and Lee said this was a service that students noted as being very important to them.

“On the [Health and Dental] Plan, you can access up to $800 in coverage for mental health support. The only piece that did change this year was that there is a cap on those services. So they’ll pay up to a hundred dollars per visit.”

At the Students’ Union Board of Directors meeting on Nov. 6, the director’s motioned to take the topic of oral contraceptive coverage to referendum once again. 

“That’s going to be something that will continue in our discussions at the next board meeting as well,” Lee said. 

Lee encouraged students to reach out if they have any questions or feedback regarding the Health and Dental Plan. 

“I’m always happy to discuss the plan, benefit details, listen to feedback. We are student focused and student driven, we value that feedback greatly,” Lee said. 

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