Limits of Ryerson’s health coverage

The Ryerson Student Centre, 55 Gould Street

Students usually collect their opt-out cheques at the Student Centre, 55 Gould Street. (Avital Borisovsky/Ryersonian staff)

Despite many Ryerson students opting out of RSU’s health and dental plan, most decide to stick with it.

According to RSU president Melissa Palermo, around 17,500 students are currently enrolled in the health plan, compared to the 12,500 students who have opted out. She said most students do take advantage of the benefits provided, especially for things like prescription medication, antidepressants, and contraception.

Students who have dependants or who are not covered by external coverage are those who benefit most from the plan, Palermo said.

In the 2012 school year, the RSU paid $4,452,446 in insurance premiums to Green Shield Canada for students who stayed in the plan.

Some students, like second-year biomedical student Aashish Toor, didn’t know they could opt out.

“In first-year I wasn’t aware (about opting out), and this year I forgot to,” he said. Toor has external coverage and doesn’t use the services that Green Shield provides.

Matthew Tulloch, a first-year business management student, has external coverage but has kept the RSU health plan as well. He was aware of the opportunity to opt out, but didn’t know it involved receiving a $300 reimbursement.

Tulloch hasn’t used the coverage at all and says “the campus should have more signs about it” for students to see. Next year he says he will consider opting out.

“The RSU does our best to give out information a lot in the first week of school (about opting out) and do our best to promote it,” said Palermo.

Many students who keep their coverage say they enjoy the benefits that are offered. One is fourth-year social work student Megan Skelly.

“It’s easy and included in the tuition, and there’s no better option for students,” Skelly says. She has used the benefits for dental care and contraception.

The plan also covers other services such as use of a chiropractor, massage therapist and physiotherapist. However, even under the plan, these services aren’t fully covered.

Third-year nursing student Krystal Lau says she needs several services, including acupuncture and physiotherapy.

When she was younger she was fully covered by her mother’s plan, but now that she is 25 the plan the RSU offers is her only option.

The plan covers only a portion of some services. For a $40 acupuncture service, only $20 is covered. “I used to always get acupuncture, but I don’t have the money,” Lau said.

Lau is also unable to attend necessary physiotherapy sessions, since the plan covers a maximum of $240 a year. “After I found out how much it covered, I had to stop,” said Lau, who stopped her physiotherapy after three visits.

For the many students who don’t have external health coverage like Lau, the plan is the “only alternative in case something bad happens.”

Students starting classes in the winter term have until Feb. 7 to opt out.

This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on January 29, 2014.

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