UVSS approves referendum questions at emergency meeting

At an emergency board meeting called for Jan. 15, the UVSS board approved three referendum questions for students to answer during the next UVSS election in March.

Two of the questions address the UVSS Health Care plan. Students will choose if they are in favour of creating a tiered health care system, with a basic plan that costs $290 and an enhanced system that costs $360.

According to Mackenzie Cumberland, the UVSS’s Director of Finance and Operations and proponent of the health care–related questions, details regarding the coverage included in the basic and enhanced plans have not been finalized.

“It’ll be a difference in level of coverage . . . things like increased access to health practitioners, increased access to the drug exception process for the enhanced plan,” said Cumberland, who spoke with the Martlet before the meeting. “Whereas the basic plan will have a lower level of coverage for these things.”

In terms of the specific coverage provided, Cumberland believes the plans will sit either side of the current plan — a plan which offers $300 in vision coverage, $750 in dental coverage, and 80 per cent prescription drug coverage with up to $1 000 in exceptions.

If the referendum passes, students enrolled with Studentcare, the third-party company that administers the UVSS health care plan, will start with the enhanced plan and have the option to drop down to the basic plan.

The final question asks students if they agree to raise fees for the Food Bank and Free Store — a raise of 75 cents per full-time student and 37 cents per part time student each semester.

At the meeting, two representatives from the Food Bank and Free Store, Alexandra Ages and Josie Simpson presented the question and asked the board for help endorsing and promoting the levy increase. The same question — with the 75 and 37 cent increase — was posed to students last year but failed to make quorum by 0.7 per cent.

“A big part of if is going to be actively spreading the word more, as much as possible,” Ages said to the Martlet after the meeting. “We’ve got a ton of dedicated volunteers who are willing to go out . . .  and ensure that as many people as possible know what we are, what we do, and who we’re supporting — which is the student body here at UVic.”

The health care referendum questions became necessitated after student premiums skyrocketed, draining the UVSS’s health care fund and forcing coverage to be cut. If the referendum questions don’t pass, and the UVSS can’t increase the funding available to them, Cumberland confirmed that a health and dental plan would still exist, but that students would see “very great reductions” in the services provided.

“Things like access to health care practitioners would be cut down a lot,” Cumberland said. “The drug exception would be either cut down even more or gone.”

“It’ll basically be a skeleton of what we have now for health coverage.”

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“Students recognize the importance of having a health and dental plan.”
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Cumberland explained that the second question, which asks students if they are happy with giving the UVSS the ability to raise fees by five per cent each year, was necessary in order to cover an unexpected increase in health plan usage.

It will just give the leeway that in case premiums increase, the board of directors can increase the fees to match the increase in premiums,” said Cumberland, noting that the referendum question would allow the UVSS board to decrease fees by up to five per cent as well.

Cumberland has a lot to do in terms of promoting and advertising the referendum questions,  but she’s hopeful that students will understand how crucial the questions are.

“Students do recognize the importance of having a health and dental plan. Having a plan that fits everyone’s needs is vital in ensuring that everyone has access to an education,” Cumberland said, noting the Anti-Violence Project’s (AVP) referendum in November as a blueprint for how to run a successful referendum campaign.

“Kenya and AVP put so much work into that. I know that if I put the work in, and if we as a board are able to put the work in, I’m sure it will — “

Cumberland pauses — just for a second.

” — pass.”

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