By Justin Schellenberg, October 30 2017 —
(With files from Tina Shaygan)
The Students’ Union is reviewing the health and dental plan after two consecutive years of cost overruns.
During the 2015–16 academic year, a budget overrun of $9,695 was covered by the SU’s health and dental reserve fund. That number has grown to $26,400 this fiscal year.
“If the [student] fees for the year don’t cover the total amount of services, the difference will be taken out of the health and dental reserve fund,” SU vice-president operations and finance Ryan Wallace said. “Essentially, we have a bunch of money saved for situations like this.”
Students are covered by the health and dental plan from Sept. 1 to Aug. 31 of each year. According to a report by Wallace, it is estimated that 2,500 students will utilize dental services during the fiscal year. However, if this service is used more often, the SU will face extra charges of $400 per student. This year there was an overage of 66 students, resulting in the $26,400 charge.
Wallace is looking at starting consultation with students on the health and dental plan for ways the imbalance might be resolved and what issues need to be addressed. He said it is important to keep the consultation open to only those students who are on the plan.
“If we do an open consultation, we run the risk of having students who aren’t on the health and dental plan who might not be experiencing the services from it,” Wallace said. “We really want to make sure [the consultation] is accurate.”
He added that if a fee increase is the solution, it would have to go to a campus-wide referendum.
“If students end up telling us that they want more services and coverage, that means we need to consider increasing the fee, that’ll go to referendum and students will have the final say,” he said. “If students vote in favour of it, I support that. If they don’t, I support that too.”
First-year bachelor of science student Riya Rai said she would be willing to vote for a fee increase if it came to a referendum.
“Perhaps if [eye-care funding] would increase it would be ideal, because I know that a lot of people have glasses and wear contacts,” she said.
Third-year drama student Oliver Tempel said he was happy with the current plan and would not support a fee increase in a referendum.
“Nothing immediately comes to mind in terms of complaints,” Tempel said. “I’ve been pretty happy with what’s been going on so far.”
Wallace said the health and dental plan fee has not been adjusted in nearly 15–20 years and noted the changing environment on campus meant there was a need to adapt the school’s health coverage.
“I’m optimistic that I can get the consultation piece finished during my term,” Wallace said. “Hopefully, it will carry on through, because I think it’s going to take a long time.”
The SU health and dental plan is available for full-time undergraduate students, who can opt-out of the plan if they have other health insurance coverage.