SU dental coverage lacks bite

By Tristan Taylor

Once again, the Students’ Union has disappointed the student body. The SU’s official slogan is “to serve and represent,” yet each year they fall short in some way. All University of Calgary students pay into a mandatory health care plan. A plan so ineffective that few seemingly take advantage of it, and those that wish to are provided narrow coverage that restricts almost as much it helps.

The current plan has been in place for the past six years and covers health and dental. It has problems, though. For those who have better coverage from an employer or family member, the mandatory university plan is a waste of money that could be better spent on books, food, housing, transportation or even beer.

For students who need the health care coverage, the plan is somewhat limiting. It allows the user to visit any pharmacist, but in regards to oral health, fails to meet expectations. According to the insurance provider Gallivan and Associates, the plan only allows the use of six dental offices in the Calgary area. Taking into account students who are not from Calgary offers a clear perspective of why this is problematic. Students from small towns who use their local dentist shouldn’t be forced to leave that practitioner. It also affects students with families who may have already developed professional and personal relationships elsewhere. The SU shouldn’t be able to limit which dentist students can visit, even in the name of keeping insurance fees low.

Compared to Calgary’s other university, the U of C’s health care plan is a sponge. Mount Royal’s health care policy is more expensive by a whopping $5, but offers $250 more in dental coverage. Both the MRU and U of C plans are offered through Gallivan, but Mount Royal’s has broader opt-out options. There, you are only required to sign your plan away at the beginning of the year and within two weeks you will be reimbursed your total fee. In order to opt-out at the U of C, you must submit a form and prove alternative coverage by Sept. 25. This is only possible if you know about opting out, which requires delving deep into the SU website for a link to Gallivan.

The ridiculous part about this whole situation is that the health care dilemma could be fixed by merely adjusting policy. When an SU program has limits that negatively impact students’ quality of life, something needs to change.

If the SU simply made their health care policy more transparent than it would already be an improvement. It is impossible to discover any information on this policy from the SU website, the only information available is on the Gallivan and Associates website and by word of mouth. Given the financial investment by students in this plan, the least the SU could do is provide easier access to students who want information about their coverage.

Despite the shortcomings of the SU’s health care plan, for students who have no other access to health care, the one made available to all U of C students is immeasurably helpful. There is much room for improvement, however. This is a call to the SU to change their policy to make it more flexible, transparent and useful for students.

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