As a referendum that proposes a health insurance scheme is considered Bridget Fitzsimons examines the proposal and questions its validity
It is clear that something needs to change in the student health centre. It was assumed that with the advent of health centre charges, things would be different. No more long waiting times, more services and an altogether better health centre was what we thought was coming.
However, it is obvious to anyone that has visited the health centre that this is simply not the case. While certain services, like the contraceptive clinic, have been reintroduced, waiting times are still quite lengthy and it feels wrong to pay €25 for the same service we were getting for free twelve months ago.
Because of these problems, Students’ Union President Gary Redmond has proposed that a health insurance scheme be implemented in the student health centre. The scheme, if approved by students, could see a payment of up to €100 being paid alongside the registration fee. This payment would amount to a health insurance premium, which would cover students for a limited number of health centre visits, as well as offering them health and travel insurance outside of the university.
While all of this sounds great on paper, especially as the counselling service will be operating on €125,000 less than this year, the reality is not so perfect. This scheme is riddled with problems and is likely to cause contention within the student body.
To assume that all students use the health centre is naïve at best. While it is undoubtedly a necessary and valuable service, it is not a facility that everyone uses. Given the current economic climate, it is bizarre that the SU would consider asking students who do not even use the service to pay up to €100 for it. While the current system is not perfect, it certainly seems fairer for students to pay for the service as they use it, instead of forcing everyone to pay.
Similarly, there seems to be an assumption that all students are without health insurance. Many students are a part of family schemes or simply pay for their own health insurance. This is particularly pertinent for mature students, who simply will not want to give up on their family policies simply to suit UCDSU.
It is commendable that students with medical cards will not have to pay, but this decision is coming at the worst possible time. While the recession has undoubtedly affected the health centre, it has also affected students’ pockets. If UCDSU are planning on campaigning politicians to cap the registration fee, they cannot expect students to pay an extra €100 on top of what is already a crippling payment. It is simply hypocritical.
There is too much bureaucracy involved in making sure that this scheme is implemented in a fair way. It is simply not feasible. In a time that is economically unsure, students should not be expected to pay money by the people who are supposed to be protecting their interests. €100 might not seem a lot to some people, but for others it is the difference between making rent and missing a payment or simply eating or not. If UCDSU’s sabbatical officers and class representatives wish to properly represent those that have voted them into the positions they hold, they must realise the needs of those that they are serving. Students do need a proper health centre, but it needs to be properly administrated and funded in a fair way. As students simply would not pay if the payment were not mandatory, it seems as if it will have to be for it to make any real change. A lack of choice is not something that students should be asked to accept, in any form.