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

A Saanich man received almost 10 years in Supreme Court in Courtenay for a shooting incident from 2018. Record file photo
Shooting incident north of Courtenay nets almost 10-year sentence

Richard Daniel Vigneault was arrested without incident and faced 16 counts

Danielle Egilson has been awarded a $40,000 post-secondary scholarship with The Cmolik Foundation. Photo supplied
Student from Courtenay’s Vanier Secondary lands prestigious scholarship

Cmolik Foundation provides opportunities for youth who’ve experienced adversity

Poverty is a sad reality for some people in the Comox Valley. Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash
Project takes a hard look at poverty in the Comox Valley

Objective is to reduce poverty in the Comox Valley by 25 per cent over four years

Dr. Aref Tabarsi, a general pathologist at the North Island Hospital Campbell River Hospital Medical Laboratory, spoke about the issue of service in the region at a meeting in February 2020. Black Press file photo
Comox Strathcona hospital board wants pathology service back

Board supports move for chair, vice-chair to engage with Island Health on issue

Comox town hall. Black Press file photo
Comox approves 2021 tax rates

Homeowners can expect a 4.95 per cent in their residential tax rates this year

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The following is a list of restaurants offering take-out and patio dining. ADOBE STOCK IMAGE
List of Comox Valley restaurants offering take-out, patio dining options

Restaurants in the Comox Valley continue to adapt to government-imposed restrictions in… Continue reading

The only access to 5th Street bridge heading east (toward Lewis Park) is via Anderton Avenue. Photo by Terry Farrell.
Single lane alternating traffic controls on Courtenay bridge now in effect

Single lane alternating traffic on the 5th Street Bridge is now in… Continue reading

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
MISSING: Salt Spring RCMP find woman’s car, still seek Island resident

Sinikka Gay Elliott is 5’3” with a slim build and dark brown short hair

Bradley Priestap in an undated photo provided to the media some time in 2012 by the London Police Service.
Serial sex-offender acquitted of duct tape possession in B.C. provincial court

Ontario sex offender on long-term supervision order was found with one of many ‘rape kit’ items

Rich Coleman, who was responsible for the gaming file off and on from 2001 to 2013, was recalled after his initial testimony to the Cullen Commission last month. (Screenshot)
Coleman questioned over $460K transaction at River Rock during B.C. casinos inquiry

The longtime former Langley MLA was asked about 2011 interview on BC Almanac program

Steven Shearer, <em>Untitled. </em>(Dennis Ha/Courtesy of Steven Shearer)
Vancouver photographer’s billboards taken down after complaints about being ‘disturbing’

‘Context is everything’ when it comes to understanding these images, says visual art professor Catherine Heard

Most Read