Eliminate International Student Health Fee

According to a campaign promise made in the 2017 provincial election, the BC Government decided to eliminate Medical Services Plan (MSP) premiums for all BC residents. But when this promise came into effect/practice in January 2020, migrant students not only were excluded from this “Free MSP Celebration,” but also the cost of health insurance at least doubled for them. The MSP cost of $35 per month was eliminated for all BC residents, but a new International Students Health Fee (ISHF) costs $75 per month for those who hold a study permit.

In this new ISHF, the Family plan was eliminated, meaning that ISHF holders pay $75 for each dependent, even those under 19. The new plan represents a significant unplanned financial burden on international students with children attending primary or secondary school who must pay the full individual-rate fee. Before these changes, a plan existed for BC residents where a family (i.e., multiple adults; children under 19 and dependent youth aged 19-24 enrolled in postsecondary study were not charged1) would pay up to $150 per month in MSP fees, with various tiers of rebates available for low-income families. That plan is no longer open for international students, significantly impacting students with school-age children. An international student household with two children on study permits now has to pay an extra $1800 a year; with three children; they need to find an additional $2700 a year. The personal budget impact is greatly magnified for single parents attending postsecondary institutions. This represents an enormous burden on families with adults who, by definition, have not yet completed their studies and not yet joined the labour market.

This new fee also asymmetrically impacts various international students in BC, such as graduate students and students with on- and off-campus work. In BC, international students may work up to 20 hours a week in off-campus employment, and there is no limit for their work in on-campus positions. Their employers collect the EHT, but there is no subsequent deduction counted against international student health fees owed. This represents double-dipping to various extents; a student working 20 hours a week at $15/hour will generate approximately $25/month in EHT revenue for the BC government. Higher wages will, of course, create more EHT liabilities for employers. Those working on campus may generate more significant amounts as well: at SFU, a standard teaching assistant contract will generate $26-27/month, but research assistants, graduate students acting as per-course lecturers and others often receive higher pay and thus create higher government revenues. None of this is taken into account in this policy change.