A s of April 1, dependants of post-secondary students are eligible for health benefits under the Alberta Child Health Benefit program.
The program will provide 100 per cent coverage for dental services like basic dental work, eye wear, prescription drugs, essential diabetic supplies, and emergency ambulance service from home to a hospital. The ACHB is part of a series of programs of the National Child Benefit.
Previously, parents who received student assistance were only eligible if they were enrolled in English as a Second Language courses or academic upgrading courses. The addition of post-secondary students' dependants stemmed from discussions between students and the Alberta government.
"Initially [in 1997], the government had talked to student associations about whether or not they would benefit from this," said Alberta Human Resources and Employment Public Affairs Officer Janice Schroeder. "At that time, student associations said 'no.' But many students have come forward since then to say, 'Yes, I do want this coverage.' This is [the Alberta] government's response to the concerns raised by students."
Eligibility is based on number of children and net income. Families with one child and a net income less than $20,921 are eligible to receive benefits. For each additional child, the income threshold increases by $2,000 per child.
Schroeder believes money spent now on children's health will prevent later complications.
"Hopefully [the effect will be] healthier kids," said Schroeder. "That's the reason for the existence of the program in the first place, regardless of whether parents are on campus or working or wherever else they may be."
According to Students' Union Vice-president Operations and Finance Amanda Affonso, the ACHB program is similar to the SU Health and Dental Plan in terms of coverage.
"I don't think it will affect the [SU Health and Dental] program significantly," said Affonso. "There is no impact because it's a smaller number of students. But [if students are] not registered in the [SU] program or [covered by their] parents, it's a benefit."
According to Alberta Learning, almost 15 per cent of post-secondary students have dependants. The addition of dependants of post-secondary students will result in an additional 6,500 children receiving coverage.
Mother of a five month old son and Environmental Science student Claudette Fedoruk believes the addition of dependants of post-secondary students to ACHB is a good idea.
"It's really hard with a child to cover all the things that he needs," she said. "When he's sick it's hard to pay for prescription drugs or visit the doctor even."
For more information call the Alberta Government's toll-free number at 310-0000 and then dial 427-6848.