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Health insurance row continues in Manitoba

The University of Manitoba Students’ Union has drafted a letter to the Canadian government calling for health insurance funding for international students to be reinstated. The move follows university governors approving a CA$865 annual premium under the Manitoba International Student Insurance Plan.

international student health insuranceHealth coverage for international students in Manitoba was introduced in 2012, but repealed last year. Photo: Tony Webster/Wikimedia Commons

Last year, there were 18,725 international students from 100 countries studying in Manitoba

“It’s a sharp increase from the $606 per student the university covered for one year,” said a statement from UMSU.

“The decision now forces international students in Manitoba to pay some of the highest insurance premiums in Canada.”

Provision for free healthcare for international students in the province was scrapped last year.

“The initial purpose of providing coverage to international students and their dependents, which began in April 2012, was to encourage international students to study in Manitoba,” a spokesperson for the government of Manitoba told The PIE News.

“[It] forces international students to pay some of the highest insurance premiums in Canada”

“It was subsequently determined that Manitoba offers some of the lowest tuition and cost of living nationally, further attracting them,” the spokesperson added.

Some HEIs covered the costs for students in the 2018/19 academic year. As such, next month many students will be paying premiums for the first time.

Dele Ojewole, the former Manitoba chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students claimed the government had “clawed back public health care for international students without any prior consultation”.

“The $3.1 million saved by this elimination seems petty when a recent press release put their annual contribution to the local economy at over $400 million,” he wrote.

“Canadians consistently applaud themselves on public health care in contrast to our neighbours to the south. No one should have to choose between seeking medical attention and going further in debt.”

Gary Gervais, president of Heartland International English School, told The PIE that free healthcare had never been a “significant factor” in students choosing the language school.

“We didn’t notice any change in the number of applications,” he said.

“Less than half our students come on a study permit. Many of those had purchased insurance from their home country despite the provincial healthcare coverage.”

Last year, there were 18,725 international students from 100 countries studying in Manitoba, signalling a growth of 17% over the previous year.

At the time of publication, the University of Manitoba had not responded to The PIE‘s request for comment.

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