Vision care sighted in near future

By Ashad Mukadam

University of Calgary undergraduate students could have vision care included as part of their health plan, as soon as January 2009. Otherwise, it could be added in time for the 2009-10 school year.

Students’ Union vice president operations and finance Alex Judd and her commissioner Bryan Campbell are looking into options available to add vision coverage to the current Undergraduate Student Health and Dental Plan. The option chosen will be provided by Gallivan, the current provider of health and dental, and covered by Great West Life Assurance Company. There would be no increase in fees and students will be able to go to the optometrist of their choice.

The list of options that are being looked at include coverage similar to Southern Alberta Institute of Technology ($80 for eye exams, lenses and glasses combined) Mount Royal College, ($40 for eye exams and $100 for lenses and glasses) and the Graduate Students’ Association ($50 for eye exam and $150 for glasses and lenses). The plans would cover one optometrist visit in a 24-month period starting in September. This rotation is similar to some vision plans that companies offer to full-time employees.

“While other schools had people to push, there was no push [from U of C students] to add it,” said Judd. “It’s only been in the past year or so that we have had people ask for it. Also, because of the cost savings that we got from our dental plan over the past few years, we were able to look into adding vision.”

Campbell said a number of alternatives were looked at.

“One option was to emulate dental, where we had a set of managed care partners,” he said. “I also looked at different levels of coverage offered by Gallivan and I compared with other universities. We wanted to give students flexibility to choose.”

With costs for eye exams and glasses being quite expensive, especially for those students who are not working or not on their parents’ benefits plans, both Campbell and Judd feel that the GSA option offers the best student coverage.

“Ideally, we want to give our students an advantage,” said Judd.

Both Judd and Campbell hope a decision on adding vision will be made by the end of the month. A proposal was sent to the Student Legislative Council a few weeks ago and the options will be formally presented later this month.

“We know glasses are expensive and we want to cover as much as possible,” added Campbell.

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