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Changes to the U of O health plan leads to headaches for one student

Spencer Van Dyk | Fulcrum Staff

COMMON LAW STUDENT Shubha Nijhawan was leaving on an academic exchange to China when she decided to utilize her U of O health plan. She received two vaccines before she left, was then informed that only one was covered, and has been looking for answers ever since.

Nijhawan started by contacting Green Shield Canada, the University of Ottawa’s health insurance provider, at the beginning of August and was told that both vaccines would be covered. She obtained the first vaccine that month, and after she received the second shot four weeks later, was told it would not be covered.

“It was an expensive shot,” Nijhawan said. “Each one cost $200, roughly. I called the SFUO [Student Federation of the University of Ottawa]; they directed me [back] to Green Shield.”

Green Shield confirmed that the vaccines were covered under the plan and said there was no indication there would be any issues when it came to receiving the second shot on Sept. 1.

Anne-Marie Roy, vp communications for the SFUO, said she thinks there was a misunderstanding over what was included in the health plan and what Nijhawan thought was included.

“Every year we negotiate a new health plan,” Roy said. “We always try to negotiate the most accommodating health plan possible, but also keep it at an affordable price. From year to year it may change slightly.”

Because the university’s health plan was renegotiated for this academic year and was officially changed Sept. 1, Nijhawan’s second vaccine was no longer covered. She was already in China when she found out that Green Shield would not reimburse her.

Nijhawan initially approached the health plan coordinator, who directed her to SFUO vp finance Adam Gilani. She then corresponded with SFUO president Ethan Plato, and finally with executive coordinator Amy Hammett. According to Nijhawan, the SFUO failed to properly communicate the changes to the health plan. According to the SFUO, however, policy was followed and communicated to Nijhawan as quickly and clearly as possible.

“My understanding of the story,” Roy said, “is that the student got a hold of the health plan coordinator, who provided her with the answer to her question, saying that unfortunately we would not be able to reimburse the second vaccine,” said Roy. “She followed up with Adam Gilani, who is the health plan supervisor, and Adam reinforced that we would not be able to reimburse her. The student went up the ladder again to Ethan Plato and Ethan provided her with the same answer once again. She then went to Amy Hammett and again got the same answer.”

Roy does not believe there was a miscommunication, as Nijhawan did get in contact with four people within the SFUO.

“She was trying to find someone who would give her the answer she wanted to hear,” said Roy.

As of yet, no resolution has been reached. The SFUO will be discussing the issue at their executive meeting on March 5 and hope to come up with a solution that will satisfy all parties.

“My goal is not to malign [the SFUO],” Nijhawan said. “All I’m trying to say is that they need to be accountable for their actions.”