By Stephen Huebl
Ryerson is part of a growing trend by Canadian universities of abandoning private insurance brokers and switching to the National Student Health Network, a component of the Canadian Federation of Students.
Six universities have switched over in the last few years, said NSHN coordinator Tom Royles.
According to Sajjad Wasti, vice president of finance and services at RyeSAC, Ryerson signed the 12-month contract with the NSHN because the premiums were significantly lower than those at Gallivan and Associates Intermediaries, the previous broker for RyeSAC.
“We found it to be good for our members,” said Wasti. “It’s a matter of a better deal.”
According to Royles, the NSHN is able to offer cheaper premiums for two reasons.
The organization has a block arrangement with Green Shield, the main carrier for the health and dental plans. That means that administrative costs remain about the same regardless of the size of the group being insured. This translates into big savings for large groups.
The other reason for the cheaper rates is because Green Shield gives quotes based on its costs, which drives the overall price down, according to Royles.
“I don’t know of similar agreements between a broker and carrier,” he said. “Our brokerage fees are very low as well, and I suspect that’s how we’re saving money for people at Ryerson.”
Royles said there are currently about 20 campuses in Canada being covered by NSHN, with a total coverage of about $7 million.
The program was first offered in 1985 when members of the CFS realized most student unions didn’t have the financial or staffing resources to closely scrutinize the information provided by their broker.
Between the mid ‘80s and ‘90s, more student unions opted for health plans through the NSHN, which allowed the CFS to reduce the costs.
They also introduced the option to opt out for those who were already covered and were among the first group insurance providers to recognize same-sex relationships and include same-sex partners into the plan.
In late 1995, the NSHN found itself caught in the midst of legal and commercial wrangling which allowed for other brokers to enter the students market, including Gallivan and Associates.