Last year the provincial Progressive Conservative government made the decision to revoke access to universal health care from International Students that was instituted in 2012 by the NDP which came into effect September 1 2018. Universities were then left to find avenues that would provide coverage to students on visas at their institutions with Brandon University reaching out to the guard.me plan. The plan is $712.50 for 365 days and students have to pay this amount in their tuition (aka they cannot opt out.) Their website describes them as “among the world's largest insurance providers in international education, protecting thousands of individuals studying and working abroad.” It provides general coverage for doctor visits, medically needed hospital care, urgent dental care, and in some cases paramedic care too.
These are the services promised by the insurance but how have they applied to our own city and institution?
There are currently no clinics or walk ins that directly deposit to the insurance in Brandon, so students have to pay up front and then get reimbursed. This creates a problem for students who don't possess the cash flow to pay for doctor’s visits. Medically needed hospital stays are largely done through direct deposit as they posses larger accounting and payment services that handle the students’ insurance directly. The plan also includes access to a “mobile doctor” that allows covered parties to connect with Canadian doctors through the app called Maple. Doctors on this platform are all licensed doctors and can perform the same duties any other family doctor could perform with the exception of the obvious physical checkups. They can provide prescriptions, doctor’s notes, and give a diagnosis through a live chat.
These are the facts, but the opinions regarding the plan are less clear. The majority of students I have spoken to have said that they do not go to the doctor and thus do not see themselves utilizing the benefits of the insurance. Some, whose name I will keep anonymous, have expressed their distaste at the fact that no clinic in Brandon does direct billing for doctor’s visit despite the university promising three (such as the Brandon Clinic.) The office of International Activities has provided numerous presentations regarding the plan for students to attend and then emailed out the slides to students who could not make it. The slides provided useful information regarding the coverage and how to make claims, but did not provide much information on how to navigate the Prairie Mountain Health system. In the next article I will talk about interviews I have conducted and go into depth of how the province's decision to take universal health care from international students has affected our community.