TRUSU will hold a referendum in early February to decide whether or not to add international students to the union’s extended health and dental plan.
The referendum resolution seeks to add international students to the plan at a cost of $248 per student per year: a cost that will be wholly covered by the newly registered students themselves. As with any introduction of new fees, however, a referendum must be held in order for the new fees to be introduced. A minimum membership turnout of 20 per cent is required for the referendum resolution to be considered valid, according to TRUSU bylaws.
Currently, international students are left to find their own health and dental coverage, which either comes from the province through the Medical Services Plan or through services from their home country. Previously, the university had experienced little demand for adding international students to the extended health and dental plan, though it is something that has been “gradually growing,” said Ryan Makar, TRUSU’s Vice President Finance.
“We were seeing more and more international students coming to the member services desk,” Makar said. “After getting glasses for the first time, they’d come to opt in to the plan and unfortunately we would have to turn them away.”
Makar says that with increasing numbers of international students coming to TRU each year, the students’ union sees the extension of coverage to them as essential.
“When internationals come here and need a prescription, they’ll have a huge bill. There are no reasons why domestic students are covered and internationals are not,” Makar said.
This sentiment is one echoed by those in TRU’s international student community.
“We don’t get anything through the university. Prescriptions and dental can be really expensive. I’d support the vote,” said Saif Nadim, a third-year business student.
“I’d vote obviously. I don’t have dental issues, but I have friends that do. They pay a lot, and I know this would really help them,” said Emmanuel, who asked to only be referred to by his first name.
Another student, Diana Igumnova, said she had yet to see the dentist because of the costs.
“I haven’t even bothered with the dentist yet, and I’m already paying $800-$900 in insurance,” she said. “As I don’t have my own coverage, it’s fundamental I support this.”
Yet not all international students have been swayed on this issue, with some attributing their lack of interest in the referendum to the fact that they already have full coverage through other services.
“Many of my friends have insurance from back home. They usually opt out of TRU’s coverage and for some of them, they find it cheaper,” said Lukas Koschyk. “It’s a good deal for some, but I don’t need it.”
Few international students seem to know about the referendum right now, though that may change as TRUSU campaigns about the referendum over the course of the next month.
The referendum will be held between Feb. 9 and Feb. 11 in the Lecture Hall of the Students’ Union Building.