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International students could lose provincial health-care coverage

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Manitoba Health is considering stripping international students of their provincial health-care coverage to save $3.1 million a year.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/03/2018 (1787 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Manitoba Health is considering stripping international students of their provincial health-care coverage to save $3.1 million a year.

The province would ensure students of all ages had continued coverage through a private plan, but the students would have to start paying their own premiums. Education Minister Ian Wishart told reporters Wednesday.

Based on what international students pay for private care in Quebec, that would be $12.3 million, and at Ontario’s rates it would be $6.9 million.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Ian Wishart Minister of Education and Training, responds to questions from the media regarding how the budget effects the healthcare coverage of international students while studying in Manitoba.

Manitoba could get the foreign students package coverage at about $400 each, which would be $4.5 million, Wishart said.

So far, it’s only a review from the health department, Wishart pointed out.

“We do not see this change as detrimental,” he said.

The overwhelming majority of students affected are in university or college, but it would also affect children and youth who come here to attend K-12 schools, primarily high schools in both the public and private system.

The most recent annual report from Wishart’s office showed that there were 7,919 foreign university students here in 2016, 1,958 college students and 1,317 students in K-12 schools, an overall increase of 29 per cent from the year before.

International post-secondary students already pay hefty fees for studying here: regular tuition fees plus surcharges of two to three times those amounts.

“This government is trying to roll back years of support,” said Dele Ojewole, the Manitoba representative for the Canadian Federation of Students. “It’s something that would drive students out of the province.”

Ojewole, a Canadian citizen who came here from Nigeria to attend the University of Winnipeg, called the government’s plans harsh and inhumane.

When Ojewole first came here and had no government health coverage, he avoided getting medical treatment, he said.

It is difficult and costly for international students to get coverage with pre-existing conditions, said Ojewole, who rejected Wishart’s cost estimates.

International students paid for their own health coverage until 2012 when the former NDP government extended public health care to them, Wishart said.

“Some other provinces do this, not all,” he said, noting Canada is the only country that offers health care to foreign students.

The extra cost would drive international students to other provinces, NDP leader Wab Kinew said.

“This is also going to apply to children. It strikes me as deeply unfair.”

When foreign students go elsewhere, their lost tuition revenue will hurt Manitoba students’ quality of education, Kinew said.

But Premier Brian Pallister said foreign students don’t come here for health coverage, they come for an education, and a huge deficit won’t persuade them to stay here.

“They will stay because there is an economic opportunity,” he said.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

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