Student health plan benefits to be adjusted following rising costs

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UVSS Health and Dental Plan costs are expected to exceed what students pay each semester in premiums next year. To address the problem, the Board of Directors voted in favour of coverage adjustments at its final board meeting of the term on April 24. File photo by The Martlet

Student’s coverage under the UVSS Health and Dental Plan will be seeing some slight adjustments next year after the Board of Directors approved benefit changes at its final meeting of the term on Monday, April 24.

The adjustments are in response to the rising costs of the plan itself. Costs are set to exceed plan premiums (what students pay) next year for the first time since the plan was first approved via student referendum in 2003. They’re projected to exceed the fixed plan premium rate of $288 per student by $63.13, according to UVSS documents.

In an email following the meeting, Kevin Tupper, UVSS director of finance and operations, said that 2016-17 saw a “sudden and unprecedented jump in claims” from 2015-16.

“From just September to February, the average claims per person jumped by 24 per cent in 2016-17 compared to 2015-16. A typical student Health and Dental Plan’s inflation trend is only five to eight per cent,” Tupper wrote.

“In some ways, it is great to see that our plan is being used by more students. We want to see our plan provide benefits and value,” he continued. “An unfortunate side effect of our plan being used extensively is that higher claims mean the insurer will require higher premiums to cover their costs.”

To address the problem, the board approved the following benefit changes to take effect for 2017-18, starting May 1:

  • Switching to the B.C. Fair Pharmacare Formulary, with up to an additional $1 000 for drug exceptions,
  • Changing paramedical coverage from 80 per cent of expenses to $40 per visit,
  • Adjusting vision coverage for eyeglasses and contact lenses from $125 to $100,
  • And adjusting the annual maximum for dental claims from $850 to $750.

The current plan benefits are outlined here.

“We need to create a plan that’s balanced,” Tupper said at the meeting, arguing that the changes outlined are what’s required to ensure the plan remains operational.

In previous years where plan costs were exceeded by premiums, the UVSS set aside the extra money into a reserve fund. That fund now sits at approximately $420 000; part of the motion was to approve reallocating $275 000 to cover next year’s increased costs.

Tupper said the board focused on making adjustments in areas where the health plan is already “ahead of the pack” compared to other universities. The University of British Columbia offers $20 for paramedical coverage in its plan, for example, while Simon Fraser University offers $35 — still lower than the UVSS’s adjusted coverage.

The final clause of the motion says that the outgoing board will recommend that the incoming board holds a referendum on the health and dental plan to ensure its long-term sustainability.

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