Some U of T international students are being turned away from emergency rooms, forced to pay up front at a U of T-affiliated hospital and are unable to access some services at other hospitals, according to a top university physician.
The students are supposed to be covered by the University Health Insurance Plan (UHIP); however, the plan only covers hospitals that have signed formal Preferred Provider Network (PPN) agreements not to bill the plan for more than 2.5 times the standard inter-provincial rate. Mount Sinai and Toronto General Hospital have not signed those agreements.
“It’s unpredictable what [international students] are accepted for; in theory they should get [care] for at least a couple of days,” said Dr. Sara Taman, physician in chief at University Health Services Clinic. She emphasized that students still cannot enter the hospital with the confidence they might have if it were part of the network.
She alleges that Toronto General has asked some students to pay up front or turned them away from Emergency, despite the fact that non-resident students who require emergency treatment at these hospitals are supposed to receive full reimbursement if the treatment does not exceed four days. After that they must pay anything over the 2.5 rate, or be transferred to another hospital. All non-emergency treatment is the same, minus the four-day grace period.
Mount Sinai hospital did not return phone calls, and a spokesperson for Toronto General hospital said that they treat international students, but were unable to comment on UHIP.
The International Students’ Centre and U of T’s Health Services have been attempting to get the hospitals to sign the PPN agreements for the last three years.
Kaye Francis, from the International Student Centre, says that money is probably a reason the hospitals are hesitant to sign on to the program, since they cannot charge as much if they accept UHIP.
“In an emergency you would go to a PPN hospitals, but we tell students if they have no choice, you should go to what you have to go to and worry about getting coverage afterwards. Part might be reimbursed, but not all, and then they should transfer themselves.”
Access to non-emergency services is also a major issues. For instance, Women’s College Hospital had been part of the PPN but cut back many services fter it merged with Sunnybrook.
“Women’s College really only has obstetrics and gynecology now,” says Taman.
Service is also an issue when international students are referred to a non-PPN hospital for specialist care.