But not until the Spring semester
// Celina Kurz

As most students at the North Vancouver campus are now aware, this year the CSU has implemented a health and dental plan at Capilano University. This plan is offered to all students on the North Vancouver campus, and is also extended towards family members of students.

Initially, it was thought that students on the Sechelt and Squamish campuses would not be able to participate in the plan due to the fact that they don’t pay the same membership fees as North Vancouver students, even though they are technically members of the CSU. However, as a result of new discoveries by the CSU’s Health and Dental Committee, the possibility of students on the Sechelt and Squamish campuses being invited to participate in Capilano’s medical plan is becoming a reality: in the Spring semester, students on the regional campuses who are taking 9 or more credits will be allowed to opt into the medical plan.

As Chairperson of the CSU’s Health and Dental Working Group, David Clarkson has been involved with the process since the Fall of 2010. “Originally we wanted to have a health and dental plan for everybody,” he explains, “[but] when we started looking into it...[we discovered] we could only provide [the service] to students who paid student membership fees.”

After doing additional research into the CSU’s by-laws, however, it was revealed that there was “an existing provision...that allows a non-paying member of the student elect to become a paying member by paying membership fees.” This provision acts as a kind of “loophole” which could allow students on the Squamish and Sechelt campuses to become eligible to opt into the health and dental plan, albeit at the same 150% premium that part-time Capilano students and family members of students must pay when they opt in.

They would also be charged CSU student fees, which ring in at $5.59 per credit, including a $1 Building Fee, a fund being used to acquire new student space on the North Vancouver campus. One of the controversial things about the way the health and dental plan has had to be implemented on the regional campuses is the question of whether or not these fees will actually benefit the regional students.

Clarkson stresses the point that the health and dental committee did not have a choice in this matter. “We’re only doing it to satisfy the legal obligations of the original health and dental referendum,” he says, “and if we could amend that, that is what we’re kind of looking to do.” There has also been discussion, unrelated to the health and dental plan, about ways that the CSU can become more involved with the regional campuses.

Unfortunately, even though the CSU’s board of directors approved a motion allowing the use of this provision to assist non-paying members in gaining access to the medical plan, technical difficulties have stalled the progress of its actual implementation.

Mike Proud, Capilano’s Director of Finance, explains that before the CSU could finalize the decision, they first had to “determin[e] how students would opt themselves in,” and create not only a system that would let students do that, but also alert students of the fact that they were eligible to opt in. “Right now, there’s no automatic way to do that.”

The CSU made the final decision to push the implementation date until the Spring term of 2012 on Sept. 9. According to Clarkson, this decision “was made with the intention to ensure that an appropriate amount of time could be spent to deliver the same quality of service that's offered on the North Vancouver campus to those students in Sechelt and Squamish.” In addition to all the work that needed to be done to create an infrastructure for this information, there also was a risk of eligible students being unable to opt in within the time frame left in the Fall term. These students would not be able to opt in during the Spring term.

This does raise the question of whether or not these students actually want a health plan. Clarkson admits that the type of surveying that was done around the North Vancouver campus didn’t extend to the Sechelt and Squamish campuses. “Most of our data comes from the two focus groups that we’ve done, and from speaking to the deans responsible for the campuses. We’ve also gotten some second-hand anecdotal evidence that students are wanting in on the [health and dental] plan, but we don’t really have any quality statistical data.”

However, due to the fact that students will not be automatically opted into the plan, students who are not interested will have the option to not opt in. “Even if it’s just five students that opt in, that’s five students that have health insurance now that can go see a dentist, get their prescription drugs, or get a pair of glasses. If it’s a hundred students, well, that’s twenty times better,” says Clarkson.

While this compromise leaves Sechelt and Squamish students paying nearly twice as much for their health plan, Clarkson remains positive. “I think it’s important for the student society to provide the same services to everybody...[the situation] is not ideal, but it’s better than nothing.”

Unfortunately, we were unable to communicate with representatives from the Squamish and Sechelt campuses to hear their view on this story.

// Celina Kurz
Copy Editor

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