On March 25, McGill’s graduate students approved two referendum questions that will enact major changes to the PGSS health and dental plan and raise the student fee to improve service at McGill Mental Health Services (MMHS). The health plan costs will rise 14 per cent to a total of $413.50 per year.
The PGSS council drafted the referendum questions based on recommendations made by its Health and Wellness Committee (HAWC). The PGSS’s health and dental plan, which automatically enrolls every full-time Canadian graduate student, is voted on every year by students in order to be renewed.
The PGSS’s Health Commissioner and HAWC chair, Jonathan Mooney, had promised to review the plan while campaigning for his post last year.
“This year, because of an increase in claims in the prior year, it was predicted that the costs [of the health plan] would increase substantially,” said Mooney. “One of mandates of the Health and Wellness Committee is to make sure health plan costs don’t become onerous to the members of the PGSS. We have to try to control those costs.”
The committee decided to reduce or remove coverage of certain medical services. Coverage of biological drugs, which treat major illnesses like Multiple Sclerosis, will be maintained despite climbing costs while low and frequent coverage for eyeglasses and contacts will be reduced.
PGSS’s Student Service Fee was also raised to improve the level of care graduates receive from MMHS.
In 2008, graduate students rejected a fee increase that undergraduates accepted, resulting in a disparity in how the two groups are received at MMHS exists. Graduates face longer waiting times and no access to the staff hired as a result of the fee increase.
The issue came to the attention of Elizabeth Cawley, the HAWC’s liaison to McGill’s Mental Health Advisory Board, who encouraged HAWC to propose changes to the PGSS council last year.