The student health plan administrator has reported that the number of insurance claims for mental health visits has increased tenfold over the last five years. Studentcare stated that the claims made by undergraduate students for counselling services has increased from just over 80 recorded in 2012 to a total of 800 last year.

“It is two things: there is more of a willingness to talk about it. There is a destigmatization, more students are willing to access that care, but it is also that [mental health] care is more necessary now than it has been before,” Studentcare representative Kristin Foster told the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) Board of Directors at a meeting on December 1.

The amount undergraduate students spend on counselling has tripled over the last five years, rising from $30,000 in 2012 to more than $100,000 this past year.

The information was provided as part of a presentation on the claims from 2016–17 by the administrator of the society’s health and dental plan. Foster added that the amount students pay out of their own pockets has not increased because the plan now covers more of the counselling services.

The claims made for counselling included visits to psychologists, social workers, and registered clinical counsellors that were eligible for coverage under the insurance plans provided through the student society. The plan now offers opportunities for students to access mental health professionals using online services offering access to psychologists.

In a referendum in spring 2017, the society passed a bid to raise the health and dental plan fees up to five per cent per year for the next three years in order to maintain the level of coverage. At the start of the summer semester, a five per cent increase was implemented.  

Foster said that the decision to raise the fees by five per cent was based on initial projections, but the actual numbers brought about a reduced premium for the current year — leaving an additional $24 per student enrolled in the plan available for the student society’s reserve fund.

The reserve fund could be used to subsidize the student fees so that the costs of the plan remain steady in the coming years, according to Foster.

The total health claims from 2016–17 reached $1,176,574 with 38 percent of the claims going towards prescription drugs, 33 percent for vision care, 22 percent for paramedical costs which include physiotherapy and chiropractor visits, and seven percent for medical services and equipment.

The dental claims for the year amounted to $2,629,325 with almost 60 percent going towards preventative services and the remaining amount spent on other dental procedures such as fillings and surgery.

The health claims per student enrolled in the plan have increased substantially since a referendum in 2014 allowed the SFSS to introduce the option with enhanced coverage. In 2012, health claims were $33.18 per capita which has nearly doubled to $60.33 in the most recent 2016–17 year.