The Health Insurance Authority (HIA) have recently decreed that insurance companies can no longer offer international students, from outside the EU, the affordable and basic health coverage of years gone by. From 3 March, all international students residing in the country for longer than a year must pay for full health coverage, like everyone else. The difference in cost is staggering.
While international students could have had a basic health insurance package for under €200 a year, the cost of full health insurance could reach up to a €1000 a year – a massive hike in expenses and a possible deterrent for students who want to study abroad. This decision comes at the same time as the government’s initiative to increase the influx of foreign students by 25% within the next four years, according to The Irish Times.
This price hike is being hailed as the end to the population of international students presiding in Ireland. But 20,000 foreign students and another 100,000 people in private colleges didn’t choose to study in Ireland because of our cheap health insurance. Those are the figures for the number of people studying and living here who come from outside the European Economic Area. So is the problem really all that bad?
For international students that travel here from countries outside of the European Union, hospital bills are not free and they are certainly not cheap. A single accident and a trip to the A&E could mean big bucks and who wants to think about hospital bills when you have exams to worry about? Paying for a full health coverage package, which at most would cost up to a €1000, could save you thousands of euro more if you get badly hurt. That’s even if you decide to get health insurance.
Citizensinformation.ie informs us that a single trip to the casualty unit is a straight-up €100 for non-medical card holders. If you have an accident that involves getting stitches, multiple hospital visits, anaesthesia, x-rays, or an overnight stay… you must pay for all of that too. You must pay for your individual consultants and then when you can finally leave, you’ll have to pay for your subscription in the pharmacy. All of these things add up. That’s why people invest in health insurance, so that they don’t have to worry about the bill.
Another factor to take into consideration is the financial background of our international students. People who plan to travel here and study for four years are going to be spending quite a lot more money than our member state neighbours anyway. Here in our very own NUI Galway, all non-EU undergraduate students pay €12,750 – €13,750 per academic year for an education. Yet no one has raised this expense as a major deterrent to government plans.
It has not been mentioned anywhere that our growing housing crisis will keep international students from studying full-time courses in Ireland. But many first year students live in hostels or decline the offer of their choice because they cannot find a place to live near the chosen college. Monthly rent for a single room in the Galway city centre averages at four hundred euro and depending on the landlord, that price can exclude bills.
Many students in Ireland could never afford to go to university without the services of SUSI who make up the other half of our student fees and even help us out with accommodation costs. Don’t believe me? 76,000 students were awarded SUSI grants for the 2016/17 academic year. That is 14,000 more people than the year before! It’s nearly the equivalent of the amount of people who created a CAO application by March of last year.
The point being that anyone outside the EEC, who decides they are going to attend one of our universities, must be fully capable of paying the necessary fees. Is it too cavalier to say; ‘What’s an extra thousand euros on top of all that?’
-By Heather Robinson.