Who’s Got You Covered?

Understanding your student health plan

Illustration by Justin Ladia

Are you insured under the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association (UWSA) health plan? If you’re a full-time undergraduate student taking nine credit hours or more a term, then the answer is yes. 

Tiffani Sawatski, UWSA health plan coordinator, says this comprehensive health plan offered through Green Shield gives students a range of coverage, but this coverage isn’t always utilized.

“I think that students aren’t using the plan to its full potential,” Sawatski says. “My hope is that students use all their limits to the maximum.”

Sawatski explains many students don’t even know they are automatically enrolled in the health plan when they pay tuition fees. Sawatski works to raise awareness and educate students about the health plan, supporting students in exploring the potential it has to offer them.

“The health plan is a student initiative. (The UWSA) is a student’s association run by the students, for the students” Sawatski says. “We take students’ work seriously. A lot of unforeseen things can come up, (and) the insurance is here to help with any stress or health issues you might have.” 

The plan has travel and dental benefits as well as professional services which include naturopaths, acupuncture, speech and athletic therapy, physiotherapy and much more. 

“We also have a plan that targets Indigenous students to compliment their non-insured health benefits program,” Sawatski says. “So it’s a slightly reduced plan for students who have a treaty card ...(we) offer them a plan that compliments the benefits they already receive from the government.”

As part of the terms of agreement to study at U of W and under provincial law, international students must be covered by a health plan and therefore are not eligible to opt-out, Sawatski says, but this is not the case for all students. 

“Students can opt out as long as they have some sort of (alternative) health coverage, either through their parents, their work, or treaty cards,” Sawatski explains. “It’s the university’s mandate that students have appropriate coverage.”

Dual coverage isn’t necessarily a reason to opt out, Sawatski explains. With dual coverage you have the ability to use the two plans and expand the limits of your coverage. 

“You would tap out (Green Shield) coverage limits first, and then your secondary insurance would kick in,” Sawatski says. “The students would pay nothing out of pocket. It works like that with all of the services we offer.”

The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) offers institutions the most affordable rates. If your school doesn’t receive coverage from Greenshield through CFS, or you buy private coverage  you will be paying more, Sawatski says. 

Ashley Penner, Deputy Chairperson for the Canadian Federation of Students - Manitoba, expands on this, explaining that The National Student Health Network was created by student vote and allows students to to get affordable coverage by pooling their collective resources. 

“Green Shield Canada is the only not-for-profit health plan provider in Canada,” Penner says. “Instead of profits flowing to corporate shareholders, they are reinvested toward improving the plan for all students.”

“If students feel that coverage is not suiting their specific personal needs, they should get in contact with the health plan coordinator to discuss available options,” Penner says. “Since the CFS is a significant buying group with Green Shield Canada, students can have considerable power in changing and adapting the health plan.”

Published in Volume 71, Number 2 of The Uniter (September 15, 2016)

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