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SU discussing increase to Health & Dental Plan fee

If passed in Students’ Council two weeks from now, students may be paying $26.50 more per year for their health and dental plans.

Vice-President (Student Life) Vivian Kwan will be tabling the fee raise in response to the 15 per cent increase of claims that students are filing through the current plan. Currently, health and dental coverage costs $234.50 per year, but if the council motion passes the fee will rise to $257.95 per year.

The Students’ Union (SU) is hoping to reimburse students for five per cent of the fee increase. Without the reimbursement, students would pay $269.26 per year for next year’s health and dental plan.

Students may opt-out of the health and dental plan if they don’t want coverage — almost one-third of students opted out in Fall 2015. Under the plan, students have coverage for units including dental cleaning, prescription medications, contact lenses and chiropractic services.

The higher number of health and dental claims is a trend in universities across Canada, Kwan said. Possible reasons for the rise may include better promotions of health and dental plans, Kwan said.

“I’m pretty happy about (the popularity of the plan), because the original intent was to help support students in need,” Kwan said. “But at the same time, there’s a consequence to (being popular.)”

The greatest value of claims come from prescription drugs and dental services. Psychology service claims have also increased by 400 per cent — last year, the health plan was changed to cover 80 per cent of psychology costs.

Though the trend is increasing this year, it may plateau or decrease in the future. If use of the health and dental plan changes next year, Students’ Council could change the benefit plan accordingly, Kwan said.

Alberta is the only province in Canada without a regulated dental fee schedule, which results in dentists setting a wide variety of costs. Students submitting claims from more expensive dentists may also contribute to the raise in money spent on claims, Kwan said.

Arts councillor Ben Throndson asked how many students use the health and dental plan in Tuesday, March 22’s Students’ Council. Student Care representative Kristen Foster replied that she did not know the number of individual filed claims. She surveyed students to determine their awareness of the plan. While the total number of students aware is unclear, a survey last year of 331 students found 75 per cent knew of the plan.

Vice-President (External) Dylan Hanwell asked whether it would be feasible to eliminate the opt-out option for students with no other coverage to bring the premium down. Foster replied that eliminating the opt-out for uncovered individuals would bring down premiums, but she did not know by how much.

Students’ Council will decide how to raise the fees in April. Besides increasing the health and dental fee by 15 per cent, there is also an option to increase the plan fee by less and subsidize students from the SU’s reserve fund. There is also a cost-minimizing option that would decrease student benefits, use the reserve fund and increase the fee be a small amount.

Students can provide feedback to their councilors, who will be voting on the final Winter semester council meeting on April 5.

It’s good to see that people are using (the health and dental plan,)” Kwan said. “But at the same time, our ability to keep the plan low depends on the area (in which) students are requiring more coverage.”

A previous version of this article stated that fees were increasing $257.95 per semester. This has since been corrected to $257.95 per year.

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