By Simon Granat
Healthier students are happier, more successful students. Unfortunately this simple truth doesn’t garner the attention that it should here in our students union.
Now let me start off by saying that I respect a lot of the focus on Mental Health that the University and the student union has collaborated on lately. This includes the Peer Support Help Line, a project that is all but complete, and what I think to be President Stewart’s finest reform.
However, here in the student union we have historically overlooked the importance of providing adequate health insurance. The most recent decisions have been to either raise the fee, a function of keeping with rising insurance costs, or changing providers. The problem is that these decisions speak volumes about the student union’s attitude toward health care, namely that it should be cheap and minimal. I think we can do better.
In Canada the OECD reports that 65 per cent of people are covered by private health insurance. Think of it this way: for every first year that enjoyed Welcome Week this year, one in three did not have any private health insurance.
What’s even more alarming is that of the students covered (mainly by their parents) some will grow to no longer be covered by their parents’ insurance – either by becoming too old, or living close to campus. And many other students come to campus with private insurance plans that really don’t cover that much at all.
The proof is in the pudding: many more students keep their MSU health and dental insurance than those who opt-out. In order to opt out you need to provide proof of equal or better health coverage.
So, while students can’t prove equal or better health care, what’s frightening is that our health insurance still doesn’t cover some of the essential needs of students.
There are two areas that the MSU health insurance plan needs to cover – glasses (and contact lenses), and oral contraceptives.
Think of the student who attends class and needs to work extra hours, taking away from their studying time to afford a new pair of glasses, or even worse imagine the student who needs a pair of glasses but cannot afford them so they go without.
Whether you’re sitting in lecture or doing readings, proper sight is essential for academic success. Or imagine the student who needs to choose to work to afford oral contraceptives.
The student union should afford her some form of coverage so that she can have the freedom and opportunity to work for something beyond her basic needs.
Sure, there would be a cost to these increases, but if we pool our money the cost would be substantially less than the out-of-pocket cost that individual students face each year.
The McMaster Students Union is in a unique position. By making the choice to give better health insurance we can tear down some of the barriers students face each and every day.
We can help build a healthier, more prosperous community here at McMaster and noticeably improve the lives of students. We can make a difference with improved health insurance coverage.
This month I will be circulating a petition. If I get enough signatures the petition will go to referendum and students can have a choice – a chance to choose better healthcare.