McMaster is known to have the cheapest but sparsest student health insurance plan in the province.

But at Sunday’s SRA meeting, a motion was passed to allow for a referendum to ask students if they want an extended health plan that would include vision care, oral contraceptives and paramedical care.

Extending coverage to all three categories would result in a $47 increase in student fees.

The referendum, which would be attached to the 2013-14 Presidential Ballot, would offer students the choice for no increase, a $15 increase for vision care, a $19 increase for oral contraceptives or a $47 increase for the vision, oral contraceptives and paramedical care package.

Paramedical care includes vaccines, physiotherapy, massage therapy, chiropractic and naturopathic care, psychiatric care and speech therapy. In some cases, there is only partial coverage of these services.

Simon Granat, SRA Social Sciences, who introduced the motions and was part of the Health Care Task Force, noted that McMaster has one of the few student unions that doesn’t provide more comprehensive care.

The Assembly was especially concerned with how a change to the healthcare plan would impact the MSU’s current opt out policy. Currently, students can choose to opt out of the health plan, the dental plan or both. However, students who choose to do this must prove to the MSU that you have equal or comparable coverage.

Jeff Wyngaarden, MSU VP Finance, explained that under a new plan, “equal and comparable” coverage would need to be re-defined.

Under the new policy, students would most likely not be able to opt out of specific segments while choosing to use others. Oral contraceptives was specifically mentioned as an example of coverage that some students may want to opt out of.

Granat identified oral contraceptives as a core part of the coverage, ensuring equitable coverage for all those who may face financial barriers. He also reiterated the importance for men to “step up” to this.

However, Wyngaarden stated that a change to the plan represented a fundamental shift from solely emergency care to a more supplementary plan that provided services that were “tangential” in nature.

This prompted a noticeable response from several representatives who argued that these services were in fact essential to student life and members should not be debating about particulars of services that should ultimately be decided by students in a referendum.

Granat explained that by putting the referendum on next year’s Presidential ballot it gave the Healthcare Taskforce and the MSU ample time to hash out details and would guarantee quorum on the vote.

A student survey is also planned to gauge students’ interest on an extended healthcare plan and to understand the impact of increased fees on students.

“The survey is ready but we just held it off because there have been a lot of surveys recently and there could be survey fatigue,” explained Granat. “[But] I think there is a hunger for this and I think a survey won’t hurt us by seeking feedback.”

Wyngaarden explained how he would be interested to understand why students would vote against the referendum, especially if they found the costs to be prohibitive on top of their tuition or the services inapplicable.

Granat argued that part of the plan’s intent should be to provide equitable coverage to all students, mimicking the vision of the greater Canadian healthcare system.

“Students would be paying slightly over $100 per year, which is still $12.43 less than the provincial average, and possibly getting a better plan than they get from their parents. I think this is a risk we [the MSU] should be willing to take.

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