As a result of an unforeseen deficit, at a meeting on June 11, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Board of Directors (BoD) voted to reduce student dental coverage from $750 to $500 for the upcoming academic year. The motion was approved by the Board, with seven votes in favour and one abstention.
The SSMU Health and Dental Plan is administered by the Alliance pour la Santé Étudiante au Québec (ASEQ) / Studentcare, founded by McGill alumnus Lev Bukhman (BA ‘93) in 1996. Studentcare is dedicated to facilitating access to health and dental plans for post-secondary communities across Canada.
While the health care services component of the Plan only covers Canadian SSMU members, the Dental Plan provided by Studentcare is automatically available to all SSMU members. For an annual Dental Plan fee of $100, students are usually guaranteed coverage of dental services of up to $750 from Sep. 1 to Aug. 31 of that academic year. Following the BoD’s decision, however, students enrolled in the Dental Plan for 2018-2019 will only have access to services totalling up to $500 for the same payable fee of $100.
SSMU pays a total $134.15 premium per student on the Studentcare Dental Plan, financed in part by the annual $100 student fee. The Society is responsible for the remaining costs, which amount to over $600,000 for the approximately 18,000 students covered by the Plan. Typically, SSMU covers this amount using Plan reserves they have built up over the years. Due to a miscommunication on the part of the previous SSMU Vice-President (VP) Financial Affairs Esteban Herpin, however, the reserves are not sufficient to shoulder the cost for the coming academic year.
“Esteban communicated in an email that we had over two million dollars in reserves which we didn’t have, so we never restructured the [student] fee accordingly last semester,” SSMU President Tre Mansdoerfer said. “As a result, we only have about $200,000. It’s significantly smaller, meaning that we are currently slated a $320,000 deficit if we don’t adjust the fee.”
Following consultations with Studentcare, Mansdoerfer presented the dental coverage reduction to the Board as the only rational choice in the face of such a sizeable projected deficit.
“The suggested plan of action was to decrease dental coverage from 750 to 500 dollars,” Mansdoerfer said. “[…From] everything that I have gathered […] this is the most logical thing to do. Going forward this coming Fall, we can run a fee referendum for the next cycle of dental and health care coverage, and we can raise it back to 750 dollars if that’s what students deem is important, and I think they probably do.”
According to Mansdoerfer, SSMU’s Studentcare insurer estimates that five per cent of the Dental Plan subscribers exceed $500 worth of services over the course of 12 months. Indeed, only one third of dental services required by students constitute more expensive urgent reactive care, while the remaining two thirds are simply preventative services.
VP External Affairs Marina Cupido raised the concern that, for those approximately 900 students who were expected to exceed the reduced coverage, no other funding would be available to help alleviate the incurred costs.
“If we do have a member who is in a crisis situation and needs more coverage, is there anything we can say to them, is there anywhere we can direct them to, is there any pool of money that we could [use]?” Cupido said.
Mansdoerfer answered that he was unaware of any supplementary financial assistance that SSMU could provide to those students. The Board stressed the necessity for a fee referendum in the coming academic year to rectify the discrepancy between the maintained Plan fee and the reduced dental coverage.
“[It’s going to be] really important to run this referendum in the Fall if there’s this number of students that are going to be underserved,” Cupido said.