September 24, 2020

Spoke OnlineBy TYLER BATTEN
Sorry, your chance to opt out is up.
Conestoga Students Inc.’s benefit plans provided in partnership with Gallivan & Associates Student Networks cost full-time students around $250 a year.
According to a staff person at CSI’s Health and Wellness office, “around 3,500 full-time students opt out” each year.
For all post-secondary institutions, mandatory student health and dental benefit plans are created after a student referendum. Without a majority in favour, benefits for those who really need it would be less and the policy would cost more.
According to studentcare.net, a similar private health-care plan would cost an individual around $900.
Many colleges and universities mandate international students to have, on top of the student union’s health care plan, a University Health Insurance Plan (UHIP.)
UHIP costs a single international student $456 per year.
The University of Toronto’s St. George campus is one of the few institutions that does not require undergraduates to buy additional health care beyond OHIP, provided the student does have OHIP.
Most student benefit plan providers advise that coverage is not a replacement but rather an extension of OHIP. Most student plans provide medication subsidies, eye testing and $200 toward eyeglasses. In Conestoga’s case, discounted naturopathic care — a form of alternative medicine licensed only in British Columbia, Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan — is also covered by the plan.
Wilfrid Laurier is at the low-cost end, where a general student benefit plan costs $209. The University of Waterloo’s costs around $293 at the top-end, while University of Guelph students sit with Conestoga in the middle at around $247.
“I opted out of the dentistry part only in my last year because I didn’t realize it was an option for my first three,” said Melinda Tomlinson, a former U of G undergraduate and current University of Ottawa School of Law student. “I didn’t care enough because I felt OSAP wasn’t real money, so I just paid for it. Even when I was enrolled in it (the plan) I never used it.”
University of Waterloo student Breanna Martin said she uses her health plan regularly and has never considered opting out. “OHIP doesn’t subsidize birth control pills.”
Around a third of full-time Conestoga students are successfully opting out, but there’s no available data on how many want to, but don’t have the option due to insufficient proof of comparable benefits. Nor is there available data on students who “just don’t care,” or are unaware of the option.
“This year I filled out the form to opt out of it for the first time,” said Alexandra Sran, who is in her second year of insurance – property and casualty studies at Conestoga College. Sran attributes her decision to the opt-out advertisements which were posted in front of CSI throughout September.