Editorial – Refer & Um..

If you haven’t read it in the AUSU newsletter already, the new AUSU Health Care plan is starting to be rolled out to students. The details of the plan have been hammered out by AUSU and the plan developer Gallivan & Associates, but before it can be put into place, AUSU wants to make sure that you, the members, are on board.

No matter which post-secondary school you go to, chances are that you will be signed up for a health care plan, it’s generally a great deal for insurers as they get guaranteed sign-ups from a large population of young, healthy students who have little to no say as to whether they actually need the health care. However, until now, AU has been decidedly different. Since our students are all over the country, and have a much greater number of older, part-time, and already working people as students, we were never really a sweet-spot demographic for insurers. Not only are we statistically more likely to actually use the insurance we paid for as we’re older, but many of us already have coverage through our employers or main school, and would be unhappy if they were forced to take on secondary coverage that literally could not be used because of their other provider.

If you’ve been around a while, you may remember that AUSU was offering an opt-in plan at one point, but really this was more like a small discount program on top of the insurance provider’s normal offering. The plan with Gallivan & Associates looks to be of a different nature, and my kudos go out to them for having the courage to put together something which, so far as I can tell, is unique in the industry.

One of the primary differences between this plan and what you’ll find at any other post-secondary institution or employer is that most group plans require proof of alternative coverage to opt-out. With the current plan on offer from AUSU, opting out will be, I’m told, as simple as a button click. But better than that, Gallivan & Associates has made sure that their plan is able to be put in place on top of any coverage you may already have. So, while many student plans only cover a portion of the costs, by “topping up” with the AUSU plan that pain in your teeth, or your back, or where-ever, doesn’t need to transfer down to your wallet at all.

Of course, many students at AU only take a single course as they fill out their requirements for their degree at their regular school, so a plan that started as soon as you signed onto an AU course would have made AU seem more expensive and a less attractive option. Yet we know that once students have taken one course, they find they like the freedom it gives and so start taking more of their degree here. AUSU and Gallivan & Associates have acknowledged this by making sure that the plan doesn’t start until you register for your second course.

So with all these benefits, why is AUSU even bothering to ask if we want the plan put in place, especially if opting-out will be as easy as they say it is?

The reason is because, like any student plan, it still isn’t free. Unlike the previous discount plan AUSU was offereing, however, this one really is on-par with other student plans in terms of fees and coverage. When you register for your second course in a given year, an additional fee of $325 will be applied unless you immediately choose to opt out. However, for this $325, you get up to $500 in dental coverage (including preventative), up to $300 in physician services (including those not typically covered by provincial health care plans such as naturopaths or physiotherapists), and, amazingly, up to $2000 for private tutorial services if you’re confined to your home or a hospital for 15 days.

Let me spell that last one out again, because that’s just insane if you ask me. If something happens that confines you to hospital or home for 15 days, you can get coverage of 80% of the costs, up to $15/hr, to a total of $2000 for private tutorial services, in exchange for your payment of $325 starting at your second course in a year.

But in order for us to get this, we need to pass this vote during the election, and ideally pass it resoundingly. So if you’re a regular student, please vote in this election and be sure to vote in the referendum. Even if you don’t want the coverage yourself, you’ll be able to opt out and your vote will enable those who need it to get it. If you’re a visiting student, or just taking a single course to round out your degree, first, thanks for reading the Voice, but second, also, please take the time to vote in the referendum from February 19 to February 22nd. While the plan itself won’t affect you at all, many of the students around you might really need this kind of assistance.

If I sound excited about this, it’s because I am. I was on Council for a time, myself, and finding any insurance provider who was even interested in the AU student body, never mind willing to make the kind of concessions that would make a plan truly beneficial for AU students, was a difficult task. Personally, I want to see Gallivan & Associates rewarded for their bravery in offering this type of plan, and hope they make a lot of money at it while at the same time giving AU and distance students’ benefits that we need. My hope is that if the response to this plan is enthusiastic enough, Gallivan might consider rolling it out for other distance based learning programs, and AU and AUSU will have been the catalyst to help all distance students.

So remember, on Feb 19-22, don’t just vote for your new Council, but vote in the referendum, where we can send a message to insurance providers that people taking distance education are a worthwhile market to pursue.

Aside from that, I hope you enjoy this issue, our feature is an interview with Suzie LeBlanc, but we also have our regular columns, including the return of Hazel Anaka in this weeks’ “From Where I Sit” where she takes us on a whirlwind tour of the Magic Kingdom.

As always, if you have any comments or criticisms about the issue, I’m happy to hear them and you can e-mail them to me at voice@voicemagazine.org. In the next issue, I hope to have a lot of coverage of the candidates for the AUSU election, and an update on the winner of the Voice Reader Survey. (That’s right, I still haven’t handed out the prize, as the winner isn’t answering either phone or email messages. So next week, hopefully we’ll announce the new winner!)

Until then.

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