The University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) has announced that, starting on September 1, undergraduate students’ health and dental insurance will be covered by Green Shield Canada, instead of the union’s previous provider, Desjardins.

The benefits provided under Desjardins have not been altered under Green Shield, a point that Vice-President, Operations Fiona Reuter stressed in an interview with The Varsity. However, with the pivot to Green Shield Canada, students can expect some new benefits, including the addition of remote health consultations through Dialogue, and a new system for online claims. 

Services provided by Green Shield

The UTSU has explicitly confirmed that the switch will still let students access EmpowerMe, a service which points students to resources for mental health, as well as to health professionals for support. The service is available at any time in-person or virtually. 

Additionally, a new option provided through Dialogue allows students to virtually consult with health professionals about any medical concerns they have, at all hours, in an “unlimited” capacity. Students residing outside of Canada have some restrictions on their use of the service. They can still access it outside of Canada; however specialist referrals and drug prescriptions are only available for those present in Canada. 

Students can submit claims by mail or online. Online claims will now be completed through Green Shield’s website instead of on the Studentcare app which was used by Desjardins, wrote Reuter in an email to The Varsity

Reasons behind the switch

Reuter wrote that the purpose of UTSU’s pivot to another insurance provider was “to make the Health & Dental Plan more accessible and useful to students.” She cited several items that contributed to the choice to use Green Shield. One of the reasons was that the switch means the UTSU is able to provide a lower-cost plan that still preserves previous benefits, and can also add services like EmpowerMe and Dialogue Virtual Care. 

Reuter added that the claims submission process is now much simpler, and students have a one-year window for claims beginning from the time a service is administered. 

Under Desjardins, students had just 90 days to submit claims, beginning on August 31, 2021. Green Shield also provides a “twenty-four month plan cost guarantee,” which, in an interview with The Varsity, Reuter noted as a key fixture of “stability” of the new insurance costs, since it keeps the price of students’ insurance at a flat rate for the year. Reuter also noted that this guarantee puts future UTSU executives on track to keep costs down. 

This year, the cost of the UTSU’s health and dental plan increased by $12.38 per student. However, according to an email from Reuter, this increase is unrelated to the switch to Green Shield, since it was based on a decision made last year by the 2020–2021 Board of Directors. She described this yearly increase as a “standard practice” caused by inflation, and pointed to a section of the UTSU Operations & Finance Policies which stipulates that the Board of Directors is permitted to increase the costs of the health plan and the dental plan by 10 per cent each year.