Update (January 25, 2017 at 12:00 a.m.):
This article has been updated to include UTSU president Ben Coleman’s responses to UTMSU president Ebi Agbeyegbe’s concerns regarding the changes to the health and dental plan.
UTSU has passed a motion to change students’ health and dental insurance provider following more than a $1.6-million loss from current insurance arrangements.
Insurance is currently provided by Greenshield and purchased through the Canadian Federation of Students. Greenshield coverage will continue its services until August 31 and will be replaced by Desjardins, following a vote at UTSU’s February board meeting.
Students currently pay $291.96 annually for both health and dental insurance and have the option of opting out if they are already covered by another provider. The insurance changes will now cost students $307.80 per year, an increase due to the UTSU board of directors’ successful vote to raise psychological coverage from $30 to $100 per session.
“CFS-Services is not a licensed broker, and as such has a sole-sourcing arrangement to sign student unions directly with Greenshield,” said UTSU president Ben Coleman in an email to The Medium. “It is important to note that our new broker also obtained quotes from Greenshield, along with four other insurance companies including the successful bidder Desjardins.”
According to a report by The Varsity last December, UTSU has lost $1.6 million through its current plan over six years.
“Because the plan has consistently run in deficits in the past five years, we would probably have had to increase the cost by about 10 percent in order to repay the accumulated debt to the insurance company,” said Coleman in an email to The Medium. “With the [request for quotation] from our new broker, Studentcare, we were able to limit the required increase to 4.7 percent”.
When asked for the final vote count when the change was passed by the UTSU board of directors in February, Coleman said that it “wasn’t a close vote” and that “the board was generally in favour [of the motion]”.
“I don’t think we would have done our job to just accept a massive increase in cost for no added benefit,” said Coleman, who voted in favour of the motion put forward by UTSU VP internal and services Ryan Gomes.
According to Coleman, in order to avoid liability for losses, UTSU has established a health and dental restricted reserve that will be used to shield students from what Coleman described as “large rate hikes”.
“Since in the old financial model, UTSU was responsible for all losses in the plan, we had to carry a fluctuating reserve,” said Coleman. “The new financial model doesn’t give UTSU the direct liability for losses, so the board chose to establish a similar reserve that can now be used to protect students from large rate hikes if claims spike for some reason.”
Coleman also noted all transactions from reserve the will require the board’s approval to prevent “malfeasance”.
In an interview with UTMSU president Ebi Agbeyegbe, Agbeyegbe explained why he voted against the motion.
“There was no consultation done with UTM students,” said Agbeyegbe. “[The changes to the plan] looked good on paper, but we were not sure how [UTM] students are going to be affected by it.”
UTSU president Ben Coleman, however, said that UTSU sought input from students from both UTM and St. George in February.
“UTSU conducted a randomly sampled survey among students on both campuses through the new broker which asked questions about students’ satisfaction with plan coverage, service, and appetite for plan changes,” said Coleman in an email.
In addition, Agbeyegbe cited “ambiguities” regarding the number of claims that students can make under the new dental plan, access to the new mental health resource, and the impact on part-time students as contributing to his views. Agbeyegbe also said that UTSU agreed to explain the changes, but that UTMSU didn’t have time to consult the UTM students when the motion was being passed.
“It would be impossible for us to affect part-time insurance since it’s run by a completely different student union,” Coleman told The Medium. He explained that health coverage for part-time students, including at UTM, is handled by the Association of Part-time Undergraduate Students through a separate plan, and not through UTSU or UTMSU.
Changes to the health and dental insurance provider will be in effect starting in the 2016/17 school year, while students currently covered under Greenshield can continue to submit claims until further notice.