By: Pranjali J Mann, News Writer
During the SFSS Council meeting on September 14, Sophia Haque from StudentCare, presented the possibility of increasing coverage for student health care plans to include mental health services. She indicated potential for a “health and mental plan referendum” to vote on at the upcoming fall by-elections.
Citing results from the 2021 StudentCare Health and Dental plan survey, Haque said, “students are clearly indicating that it’s more important to them to maintain their current coverage levels, than it is to be keeping the plan cost at the same price.” She suggested that 88% of the student survey participants value good health practitioners and mental health services. Haque asked the Council if they would “consent to raise the SFSS Enhanced Health and Dental fee to $299?” This would become effective on September 1, 2023.
She noted increasing the fee from $267 to $299 would be comparable to what other Canadian post-secondary institutions are charging. The UBC plans cost around $277 and McGill University plans cost roughly $345.
Haque stated the current plan only provided psychology coverage up to $500, which offers access to a limited number of counseling sessions. With the new fee in place, she noted students will have access to Conversation. This counseling service offers students unlimited counseling sessions, medical support, and psychotherapy sessions through StudentCare.
Acting president Judit Nagy noted this would be a short-term 20 month trial so the SFSS can determine “how that works, how much students are using it, how we improve it, and if things go well.”
Haque said the mental health support would be mostly online to enable “cost stability” and increase accessibility. If the referendum is passed in the fall, students will face an increased health and dental fee in lieu of increased mental health support and price adjustments to inflation. Haque is also suggesting they approve a maximum of a 5% increase in cost at any given point over the next five years.
Thanking Haque for the proposal, SFSS vice president university and academic affairs, Nikki Kirgin said, “I’m really interested in improving student mental health here and improving services.” She added, “Currently the StudentCare doesn’t really offer a lot of compensation for counseling and psychology type services. So that’s something that we, I think, would be a huge benefit to students.”