Far-out health care

By Luke Witzaney

Tommy Douglas once said, “a nation’s greatness lies not in the quantities of its goods but in the quality of its life.” Today’s goods are not the only things crossing international borders, as more and more people find themselves travelling from country to country.

The Students’ Union, Student and Enrolment Services, and the Centre for International Students and Study Abroad have come together to begin discussions on the potential need for a mandatory health care plan which would encompass the 1,900 international students currently on campus.

“The best starting point would be actually to go to international students directly,” said Student Services assistant vice-president Jim Dunsdon. “We’re just starting the data gathering.”

International students who study in Alberta on a long-term basis can be covered on the basic provincial plan just like any other Albertan. But those who study here on a short-term basis–less than a year–would have to seek private health care coverage. Any supplementary coverage, including prescription drugs, is often dealt with through Blue Cross.

“Other students come here with coverage in their home country and bring that coverage with them,” said Dunsdon. “Some students we believe are simply not just getting any kind of coverage.”

Russian international student Masha Zakharova is in her fourth-year of studies, and is covered under the basic Alberta health care plan. Paying $44 a month, Zakharova explained she is generally happy with her coverage although there is a dramatic cost difference the two countries health care plans.

“In Russia, it’s cheaper, ten times cheaper,” said Zakharova. “I like the way it is here, but maybe I could spend that $44 better each month.”

A questionnaire with regards to health care coverage is being sent out to international students this week. The designer of the questionnaire, International Students and Study Abroad director Glynn Hunter explained the questionnaire will provide direct feedback on what the needs of international students are and whether a mandatory health care plan would be necessary.

“The questionnaire would ask ‘What is your level of study? Are you covered under a private plan? [Or, are you] covered under your own national health plan [et cetera],” said Hunter. “International students should be checking their mailboxes.”

If feedback from the international students overwhelmingly suggests that there is a need for improved health care coverage a plan would be implemented. However, it would require a long process of discussions and joint faculty tenders, which according to Hunter could take months.

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