USI lobby for lower health insurance costs for international students

Union pushing for amendments to a bill up for debate in the Seanad this week

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) are encouraging their members to lobby Senators to make amendments to the Health Insurance (Amendment) Bill 2019 that would prevent international students from facing significant rises in the cost of health insurance during their time in Ireland. 

This lobbying effort follows a high court ruling in October 2018 which stated that students from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) attending a course of study of more than one academic year’s duration must be classified as “ordinarily resident in the State”. Health insurance providers who wish to sell products to customers under this classification must be registered with the Health Insurance Authority (HIA) and thus be subject to laws which prevent insurance providers from offering discount rates to younger, healthier customers, such as students. 

Previously, health insurance providers such as Chubb were able to provide cover to non-EEA students at a budgeted student policy rate. However, following the high court ruling, health insurance providers are not permitted to provide discounted rates to non-EEA students on the grounds of their student status.

Non-EEA students are required to show proof of comprehensive medical insurance to qualify for a student visa. 

An appeal against the ruling is currently taking place in the courts. USI, as part of the Alliance for Affordable Insurance for International Students, are calling for the appeal to succeed as well as a separate effort to lobby Senators to change the law. 

The Health Insurance (Amendment) Bill 2019, which is due to be debated in the Seanad this coming Wednesday, offers an opportunity to change the law if Senators table amendments to the legislation.

In a press statement, the USI said: “International students already pay extortionate fees to study in this country and should be able to avail of insurance that meets their needs and doesn’t put them out of pocket by hundreds of euros.”

USI voiced concern that if the original high court ruling is implemented, international students would be forced to pay higher rates for less comprehensive cover, stating that “the insurance cover currently used by students go beyond health and also includes repatriation, but under this judgement there will be no repatriation covered”.

USI has warned that up to 30,000 students could be affected by the changes, should they be implemented.

The graduates of Trinity and of The National University of Ireland (NUI), currently elect a total of six Senators to the Seanad. The USI have encouraged their members to lobby these Senators on this issue, as well as the Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Sinn Fein Health and Education spokespeople in the Seanad. 

Finn Purdy

Finn Purdy is the current Deputy Editor of Trinity News. He is a Junior Sophister English Studies student, and a former News Editor and Assistant News Editor.