Students question NIC health and dental plan

Mandatory benefits plan upsets some

Scott Stanfield

Record staff

North Island College students will have health and dental coverage as of September, as determined by a student referendum in March. According to the North Island Students’ Union (NISU), students voted 97 per cent in favour of the benefits.

The provider is Green Shield Canada. The cost for a full-time student will be about $23 per month.

John Cowan, who has taken three semesters at NIC, feels the whole thing is wrong. For one thing, he said the voter turnout only represents about 10 per cent of the total student body. He also notes the referendum ballot asked if students are in favour of authorizing the union — a separate entity from the college — to collect an incidental fee of up to $24 per month from full-time students for extended health and dental benefits.

The referendum question does not include the word ‘mandatory,’ but when he registered for the fall term on June 3, Cowan questioned why his bill included a $275 ‘incidental’ charge. It was the first time he had been informed about a benefits package, let alone a mandatory one.

“I don’t see $275 as incidental,” said Cowan, who has his sights on a social work diploma. He notes $275 is the equivalent of taking one course.

Cowan also questions how 10 per cent of students confirming a proposal can be considered binding.

“None of it seems to be above board. It just seems way too deliberate. There’s people forking out money and all they’re getting is a box wrapped in brown paper that says health benefits on it, and they’re not allowed to look inside…There’s too much about this that just doesn’t make any sense.”

Fellow student Jackson Daley enrolled in the Early Childhood Education certificate program for the fall before being notified of the health coverage requirement. He says he needs to take out extra student loan money, or sell his prized collectibles to pay the extra $275.

“This fee has put my education in a state of limbo,” Daley said.

Jason V, a student on disability who prefers to withhold his last name, needs to pay the $275 himself because a government grant only covers tuition and books.

“Since this is mandatory and must be paid before the first class of the semester, this seems an additional burden as there is no way for us to come up with this extra money,” Jason said. “Opting out is an option, but that requires filling out an online form system and disclosure of our PWD (Persons with Disabilities) status and policy numbers. This seems like a beach of privacy to me.”

An opt-out form requires the name of a student’s extended health and dental provider, and group number of their plan.

“There needs to be some way to check that the person who is opting out is on a plan,” says James Bowen, NISU executive director. “There’s no personal information attached to that group number. It’s a very general piece of information.”

The benefits plan is a first in the college’s 40-year history.

“Almost 400 students voted, which is well above the threshold required in our bylaws for something like this,” Bowen said. “We think we had a great turnout relative to the size of the student population.

“We’re not the first to go through this process,” he added. “We’ve worked with the college hand and hand throughout this process.”

Bowen said the union emailed every student about the plan.

“It’s the number one thing students ask us for,” he said. “We’re confident, based on the information we have from the survey and the results of the referendum, that this is something that almost universally students support and want. We feel we’ve fulfilled all our obligations.”

 

Just Posted

Annual women’s march in Courtenay Saturday

The Women’s March was a worldwide protest on Jan. 21, 2017, to… Continue reading

Portables arrive for students on Hornby Island

Five portable classrooms have officially arrived on Hornby Island this week in… Continue reading

Cumberland multi-use development given the go-ahead despite parking concerns

Rideout Construction will pay $91,200 in lieu of 24 parking stalls

Union Bay police standoff ends peacefully

A police standoff in Union Bay was resolved peacefully Monday evening. According… Continue reading

First North Island College Artist Talk Series of 2019 features Barb Hunt

Internationally renown Canadian artist speaks at Stan Hagen Theatre

Giant rotating ice disk forms in Maine river

Ice disk that is roughly 100 yards wide has formed in the Presumpscot River

Theresa May wins no-confidence vote after Brexit deal rejection

UK PM can keep her job, after House of Commons voted 325-306

First Nation supporters march to Horgan’s MLA office

Dozens marched across the Greater Victoria community of Langford to support the Wet’suwet’en people

Bob Castle’s Under The Glacier cartoon for Jan. 15, 2019

Bob Castle’s Under The Glacier cartoon for Jan. 15, 2019… Continue reading

North Cowichan will host national rowing centre starting October 2020

Saanich’s bid for national rowing centre at Elk Lake sunk

Liberal candidate steps aside after singling out Jagmeet Singh’s race

Karen Wang says she made comments online that referenced Singh’s cultural background

SUV wedged on top of car in B.C. mall parking lot has customers confused

The accident occurred Tuesday, no injuries were reported

Tom Lavin and the Powder Blues Band among acts to perform at Comox Valley’s Winterfest

Participating hotels offering half-price “ski & stay” packages

Most Read