A few weeks ago I published an article outlining the current status of healthcare for International Students at Brandon University after the Provincial Government revoked their access to universal healthcare back in September 2017. I provided all the facts and stats regarding the private insurance that International Students at BU were enrolled in the previous article and in this brief I will be discussing the personal affects this change of legislation has had on the lives of individuals.
I conducted an interview with April Li who currently serves as the president of the International Student Collective at Brandon University. She has been an active member of the International Student community since her first year and feels passionate about how this issue has affected her and her peers, especially now that the University has also released information regarding hiking up International student fees over the next five years. First in discussion came the International students who were in need of insurances for both BUSU’s health and dental plan and the Guard.me plan. This is due to the fact that even though there are overlapping services in both plans, the BUSU health and dental covers prescription medications, dental visits, eye prescriptions, counselling among other essential services that are not covered by the Guard.me, which is generally for doctor and hospital visits. Li commented that there was a general “confusion” between students if they were able to opt out of the BUSU plan, but after attending presentations regarding the services being provided by Guard.me most students were able to understand that the plans were complementary and not supplementary.
Li further highlighted her dissatisfaction at the fact that no clinic in Brandon provided direct billing regarding their medical services, which I had mentioned in the previous article from my own experience. She mentioned that there were similar comments regarding the lack of direct billing in the ISC group chat and that this was not an “isolated issue.” She has also received complaints through emails and that she has been working with the BUSU International Director George regarding finding common ground and solutions to the complaints. Despite these efforts there are no clear resolutions to the problems faced by International students under the Guard.me plan as the decision making power is neither in their hands and nor is it in the hands of the university: it depends on Guard.me itself and how much they are willing to negotiate and reach out their administrative hands into fixing the situation in Brandon.
Lastly, as the Guard.me plan is mandatory and students cannot opt out of the $712 fees, this is becoming concerning to the students who will be returning to BU next year with the increased fees. Li ended with noting that she is currently unaware of any better alternatives to the Guard.me available in Manitoba. She notes an unpleasant customer services experience with them and that she “would not recommend it going forward.” Financial planning will be difficult for returning students who will be grandfathered into the massive hike in tuition rates and only time will tell us how the future for International students at Brandon University will look like.