One of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to student unions is their ability to take advantage of young adults that really have no idea about all of the costs that are tacked on to their tuition without them knowing it. The two main automatic adjustments that I took exception with when I went to university (and still do as a I pursue my Master’s degree) is dental and extended health insurance. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that undergraduate student unions across Canada provide access to insurance for students that don’t have it. Without dental and extended health insurance students can be on the hook for everything from ambulance trips to emergency dental work sustain at hockey intramurals I just don’t believe that some students should subsidize others for that insurance, and that is exactly what the automatic charge is all about.
The More the Merrier
If you’re not aware of the reason that unions love automatically charging everyone for insurance, it’s because the more people they can enlist in an insurance program, the better price they get per subscriber. It’s just basic economy of scale. Again, great idea by unions to pool all of the students together that actually need insurance. This gives every student a great value.
HOWEVER, it is absolutely ridiculous to force someone to go through a fair amount of paperwork just to opt-out of an insurance program they may have never wanted to be included in, in the first place! The real rationale behind this push is that the union knows several thousand students will either forget to opt-out of the plans, or will remain oblivious to the fact that they even have the insurance at all. Those thousand students are effectively paying for the rates to be lowered for everyone else, and that is extremely unfair. I’m not even sure how it’s legal to force someone into an insurance plan. That seems very undemocratic to me, especially when Canada already has somewhat of a medical safety net as it is. The extreme instance of this is the fact that the current university I attend for my Master’s of Education program still automatically enrolls us in its insurance programs. This makes absolutely no logical sense considering that about 95% of the people in the program are active teachers, and consequently have great group insurance through their regular teacher’s union options. The administration knows this, and yet the attitude is that others can afford to pay into the common good. That assumption of someone else knowing what is best for my money REALLY bothers me to an irrational extent.
Behind the Scenes
The other thing that bugs me about the whole program is the fact that it was/is relatively difficult to opt-out. I had to go to a very non-user-friendly website, and scroll to the bottom in order to find the proper link, then navigate a system that required proof that I had insurance through someone else. I ask again, how is it legal to tell someone that they need to pay for optional insurance coverage? Why should I be forced to prove all of that, isn’t it personal information, and my personal decision to make? In addition to this obvious attempt at herding students into the union-approved plan, the fact that it costs a fair amount of money just to give me my own money back further enrages me. What I’m referring to is the process behind printing cheques and then staffing a table to field questions, as well as staffers to mail them out. This might sound like a small deal, but rest assured, if permanent positions can be created to look after the process, and a committee can be founded to try to find further efficiencies, and a Vice-President created to oversee any small operation, a university will find a way to pay a lot of people to do not a lot of work.
Wouldn’t it be more straight forward to put the onus on the people that actually want to purchase insurance? Let’s ask our student unions to get the word out, put up signs in high traffic areas, and put a big pop up on the university website or something. Heck, they have all of our email addresses, send out a quick mass email detailing why the plan is a great idea in eight jot notes or less, and students should be bright enough to catch on. If they aren’t, a few might have to learn the hard way, but that seems to me to be a much preferable outcome than simply forcing everyone to fork over a couple hundred dollars that gets to collect interest in the university’s account before it gets handed back to me (while passing on the administration cost to yours truly). Doesn’t that proposal seem radically simply and fair? I can’t be the only person to think this up have I?