April 30, 2022
10 mins

Insurance in Canada: What Is University Health Insurance?

In 2021, a Manitoba student without university health insurance received a massive $123,000 hospital bill. Two extended hospital stays generated this enormous bill. This unfortunate incident highlights the importance of health insurance coverage for college students.

University supplemental health insurance can help you avoid costly medical bills in an emergency. Most Canadian universities offer health insurance plans that are comprehensive and affordable.

What Is University Health Insurance?

There are numerous ways for university students to obtain supplementary medical insurance and vision and dental riders. Your selected school will likely automatically opt you into these plans.

However, you must check with your student services office to ensure you have active coverage.

Health Insurance Is a Must

New Canadian students, international degree candidates, and university employees must follow similar rules. In addition, they must have some form of supplemental health insurance.

Typically, the selected university will automatically arrange for coverage. However, the details of the insurance will vary by province.

Some provinces don’t offer public health insurance. In these rare cases, international college students and university workers must purchase full private insurance.

Still, most provinces offer some form of round-the-clock coverage. And most importantly, it’s available at a price that college students and university personnel can afford.

For Students in Ontario: OHIP

Canadian Citizens and Permanent Residents receive national health coverage administered by their province. In Ontario, for instance, citizens and residents have access to medical benefits through the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP).

OHIP covers any medical services needed by Ontario residents. Once approved, they receive an Ontario healthcare card.

There are differences between OHIP and UHIP for Ontario residents. For example, with UHIP, international college students and university workers receive various benefits. However, they’re similar to what they’d receive with OHIP.

Yet, UHIP coverage differs. For example, UHIP doesn’t provide coverage for prescription medication.

For International Students in Ontario: UHIP

Protecting your health is an excellent way to be smart with your money in your twenties. Yes, you read that correctly: Your health can have an incredible impact on your finances.

The University Health Insurance Plan (UHIP) exists as a reasonably priced health insurance program. It’s available to international college students and employees who come to work at universities in Canada. In addition, UHIP covers the cost of health services and medical treatment across the nation.

You must be aware of your options.

Had the international student in the introduction had UHIP or other coverage, their final portion of any related hospital bill would have been a fraction of $123,000–if anything. You must be aware of your options.

Select universities also provide supplemental health coverage for international students. Without this coverage, these degree candidates would face hefty out-of-pocket healthcare costs.

In Ontario, for instance, medical expenses can grow quite steeply. A single doctor’s or clinic visit could cost over $100. Meanwhile, a trip to the emergency room could cost $2,000 or more.

It's important to remember that UHIP applies to those students attending university in Ontario.

Private Medical Insurance

In the absence of a UHIP-type program, all Canadian universities generally offer private medical insurance plans that students can opt into.

For the University of Calgary, it's as simple as checking in with the Students' Union (SU) to determine what is available. Gallivan administers their Student Health and Dental Plan, providing extensive coverage across a range of health services.

University Health Insurance Plan: The Deep Dive

Many of our readers are interested in personal finance in Canada because they're newcomers to our beautiful country. For Citizens and Permanent Residents, universal healthcare and some supplementary coverage is second nature: We've just always had it, no matter where we live.

But, our arriving international friends may have never experienced the level of care provided by our great nation. So, we must provide them with a deeper understanding of what insurance is available.

Qualifying for UHIP

International students must attend full-time classes and have a valid study permit to qualify for UHIP. College students must also have a temporary resident visa. Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) authorize the visa.

Students must also work toward an undergraduate, graduate or post-graduate degree to qualify for UHIP.

Part-time college students who previously participated in a full-time program also qualify. They must meet the exact requirements of full-time college students. Part-time university students can be eligible for UHIP for six semesters.

Also, Canadian students must register for classes at a university that participates in UHIP. Otherwise, college students must attend classes at an affiliated institution.

This information refers explicitly to schools in Ontario. However, many other Canadian universities follow similar requirements.

Exceptional Eligibility Circumstances

Provincial lawmakers recognize that there are some exceptional instances. Here, it’s fair to extend UHIP coverage to individuals who don’t meet usual eligibility standards. For example, suppose a student is a non-Ontario resident, and they’re not entitled to OHIP coverage.

In that case, the student must attend a university that participates in UHIP full-time to qualify for coverage. For instance, a student might participate in a co-op work exchange or study abroad program.

More Details on Eligibility

A student may not qualify for UHIP coverage based on the previously mentioned circumstances. Still, you can be eligible for coverage if you meet the following requirements.

Above all, you can’t access UHIP if you qualify for OHIP coverage. Also, you must register for English as a second language or a non-degree program at a university that participates in UHIP.

Each year, universities that participate in UHIP make eligibility decisions. But, first, they decide on coverage for college students.

If your university offers the benefit, you must accept it. It will provide for your health benefits for a maximum of two years.

Work and UHIP Eligibility

International university employees must meet similar requirements as college students. Only in this way do they qualify for UHIP coverage.

For instance, the employee must work at a university that participates in UHIP. Alternatively, they must work at an institution affiliated with such an establishment. The employee must also have a valid work permit issued by IRCC.

An employee can also qualify for UHIP if they’ve exhausted their lifetime extension of OHIP coverage. This applies if they’re absent from any university-approved business. These activities can include a particular work term, sabbatical, or secondment.

Finally, a Canadian employee or university-affiliated worker cannot qualify for UHIP if they’ve applied for OHIP. They must have applied during the three-month waiting period. In this case, that individual must have eligibility for OHIP coverage.

University Health Insurance Plan Dependents

You can also qualify for UHIP as a dependent. For instance, you’d be eligible for coverage if you’re a legal-common-law spouse living with an eligible student or employee for at least a year.

Natural-born, legally adopted, and step-children of an employee also qualify. In these instances, they must live in the primary residence of the student or employee. Also, they must not have entered marriage to rely on the employee for support to qualify for UHIP coverage as a dependent.

You can qualify for UHIP as a dependent up to 22 years of age. However, if you’re studying at an accredited institution, you can be eligible until you are 25. Otherwise, you must have a mental or physical disability outlined by UHIP eligibility guidelines.

Short-Term UHIP Eligibility

If you’re a short-term visitor, you might qualify for UHIP coverage if you have business with a university that participates in the plan. For this, you would need a designated staffing or educational function.

If you're a short-term visitor, you might qualify for UHIP coverage if you have business with a university that participates in the plan.

Alternatively, the university may have invited you to attend a seminar. You’d then meet eligibility requirements for UHIP as a short-term visitor. In that case, any dependents travelling with you would also qualify for coverage.

Universities decide eligibility each year for short-term visitors. Your university extends UHIP coverage under these conditions. If so, you must accept supplemental health insurance.

UHIP Ineligibility

Not everybody can participate in UHIP. For example, you can’t qualify for UHIP if you’re not a short-term visitor without recognized temporary resident status. The same applies if you’re a dependent.

Also, you could have family members of UHIP participants with a visitor status that falls under a Minister’s permit. In that case, they can’t participate in UHIP coverage.

The same applies to medical Minister’s permits. Also, correspondence college students don’t qualify for UHIP coverage.

In addition, you can’t qualify for UHIP coverage if you were eligible for OHIP coverage before July 1, 1994. Likewise, you can’t qualify for UHIP coverage if you would not have been eligible for OHIP coverage if the government hadn’t changed eligibility regulations.

More Disqualifying Factors

Children who’ve become disabled after they’re no longer eligible for OHIP coverage also can’t qualify for UHIP. Likewise, dependents over the age of 22 when a student or employee applies for coverage can’t qualify. However, if the dependent participates in a full-time learning program, this age limit extends to 25.

In some provinces, such as Ontario, college students registered at universities that don’t participate in UHIP aren’t eligible for coverage.

Finally, children of non-resident internationals that never had UHIP coverage don’t qualify for benefits. The same applies if the dependents had UHIP coverage five years earlier.

Cost for University Health Insurance in Ontario

The cost for UHIP varies depending on the number of people enrolling. It also varies based on how long you need coverage.

You’d pay for coverage for the academic year during enrollment. The academic year extends from September 1 to August 31.

For instance, if your classes start in September, you may pay around $750 for coverage. You’d pay the same up to two dependents. In other words, if you had more than two dependents, you’d still only pay the maximum fee of around $2,250.

The individual fee drops to around $500 if your classes start in January. If your classes begin in March, they’re even lower, at about $250 per UHIP participant.

Cost For UHIP Coverage In Different Provinces

Every province has different UHIP coverage policies. They also have other pricing structures.

In Newfoundland, for instance, college students don’t qualify for public health insurance. Instead, they must purchase a private insurance policy.

Still, universities in Newfoundland will help college students get coverage. A student here might pay around $480 annually for insurance.

However, in Nova Scotia, Canada, college students qualify for public health coverage. Here, they’d pay about $500 each year.

College students in Nova Scotia must sign up for public health insurance at their university. The only exception is if the college students already have a healthcare policy that provides overseas coverage.

Opting for Private University Health Insurance

Often, if a university offers an employment contract. In that case, it will also provide private health insurance for that individual. It costs more than UHIP coverage, but it also offers more benefits.

In Canada, dental and vision care can prove quite costly. Those who can afford it opt for private health insurance for this reason.

Others require private health insurance to meet their exceptional medical needs. These individuals may include patients who need treatment for chronic conditions.

For example, they may need access to medication, corrective lenses, or ongoing treatment or therapy. Likewise, an individual who needs home care or other services not included in public health care would fare better with private insurance.

Learn More About Insuring Your Future

We hope our overview has provided you with a better understanding of university health insurance.

There’s a lot to learn regarding university health insurance and personal finance. And, it's always a good idea to expand your knowledge on these topics and more.

Check out our round-up of other insurance available in Canada to enhance your knowledge of insurance in Canada.

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