A tough pill to swallow

Editorials Opinions

UVSS’ health care slip up costs students a lot

Graphic by Nat Inez, Graphics Contributor

It’s a bit of a running joke that no one really knows what the UVSS is doing (especially the UVSS themselves).

People are often only reminded of the fact that they exist each March, when the faces of prospective student politicians are literally plastered to every concrete wall on campus. Their promises are bold, brilliant, and almost always bullshit.

But that’s okay! It’s totally okay if someone wants to promise a Tim Horton’s here or a petting zoo there — it’s harmless.

That is, until it isn’t.

Because the UVSS actually holds quite a bit of power, when they fail to understand how that power works, they drastically affect the lives of the students they’re supposed to be looking after.

This power has never been more exposed than when the UVSS’ decision to shift to a new health care provider cost Lilia Zaharevia, a student at UVic, her important Cystic Fibrosis drug Orkambi.

Not only was the decision to change health care plans questionable — the decision was made in a board meeting, rather than in a referendum — but the method of communicating the change was also maddeningly naive: “Win a $50 gift card,” the email subject line read, not: “There is important information regarding your health care in this email.”

Even if students wanted to attend board meetings (which no one does), they are poorly advertised and the agendas are rarely available beforehand. The minutes of these meetings are not routinely posted online (though they have been recently updated after the UVSS was criticized on this matter last month).

The result of this was that a student had eight days notice that she would no longer be able to access a drug that kept her lungs working at a greater capacity than 29 per cent.

The UVSS can’t help Zaharieva right now, even if they wanted to. They’re planning a spring referendum to charge students more money for their health care coverage in order to go back to the plan they were on before. But that’s almost five months away.

They can ask people to sign their poorly written petition, and pledge their support behind a student they themselves let down.

Or they can make meaningful change: talk to the university about a better way of communicating with the student body beyond the two emails they’re apparently allowed to send out each year.

Write policy that dictates how exactly they tell their students about health care policy and how responsible they are when they mess up.

Be accountable and open with what happens in their meetings, and don’t wait months to post board meeting minutes.

Or set up a Tim Horton’s. Their call.

This story was updated to remove information about how many days of Orkambi Zaharieva had, due to the passing of time between the print publication date and the online publication date.