The Health Insurance Authority (HIA) are currently involved in a High Court case to determine the insurance requirements of international students.
Study and Protect are opposing this case, alongside their underwriters Chubb, as they insure the majority of international students in Irish universities. Should the HIA be successful, it will lead to increased financial pressures on international students.
The Health Insurance Act of 1994 does not currently define the meaning of “ordinarily resident,” which is used to determine when students are required to pay for their insurance. The HIA argue that this term should be defined as it appears in section 2(1)(d)(i) of the act. This defines it as a student which is attending a course in Ireland for in excess of one year.
However, this is not the definition used by the Revenue Commission, who classify “ordinarily resident” as someone who has remained a resident of Ireland for three consecutive tax years. Should the HIA be successful in this case, international students who study in Ireland for more than one year will be required to take more expensive insurance in order to retain their student visas.
Should the HIA be successful, students pursuing multi-year programmes will be required to purchase private health insurance. As a result, these insurance prices will increase to over €1,000 a year per student. Currently, these students are required to hold medical insurance for the duration of their stay, and this has been offered by Study and Protect among others for over 15 years.
Annual international students are currently offered insurance which covers medical, repatriation and funeral expenses among others. This policy costs approximately €100 and imposes no costs on the state. The policy type was initially developed by Study and Protect alongside Chubb, who was then known as the Ace European Group Ltd. This cost increase would largely impose upon international students, many of whom are reliant on scholarships and living off of predetermined loans.
The rise comes less than a year after College raised its postgraduate and international fees by 5%, amounting to several hundred euros per student. This followed a 4% increase in 2014 and an increase of 3% every year since. This increase will build upon the high fees paid by postgraduate and international students, who paid between €4,000 and €15,000 at the time of these increases.
This news also follows the government publication of the International Education Strategy for 2020, which included international student targets. These targets noted that in 2016, the contribution to the economy of international students was €1.58 billion, with an intended increase to €2.1 billion by 2020.
President of the Graduate Students’ Union (GSU) Shane Collins took issue with this target, stating: “Shortly after this information was published, including a targeted increase of 37,000 international students by 2020, the HIA found issue with the definition of ‘ordinarily resident’. Precarious timing for this concern.”