Urgent: Take Action on Guard.me

The current contract between SFU and Guard.me expires at the end of the August 2015. Six months in advance of that date, SFU can choose to continue with Guard.me for another 2 years. That gives us until the end of February to can convince SFU not to renew Guard.me. If you think the Guard.me contract is unfair, right now is the time to take action and end the rip-off. Here's some actions you can take:

Table of contents:
- Guard.me Timeline
- For those enrolled in Guard.me
- How to opt out of Guard.me
- TSSU's Research & Issues with Guard.me
Guard.me in the Media

Guard.me' is a new mandatory private medical insurance plan for 'newly enrolled' international students at Simon Fraser University implemented in January 2013. This plan's intention is to cover the 2-3 month waiting period that new arrivals to BC must wait before they are covered by MSP (the public provincial Medical Sevices Plan). Guard.me's contract with SFU ends at the end of 2015.

The TSSU first heard rumours about this plan in Summer 2012, discovered the beginning of the many issues associated with the plan in May 2013 as they were effecting members (including re-enrollment in the private plan even when members were already covered by MSP, more details below), met with SFU in an informal meeting to see if things could be resolved in July 2013 and filed a grievance the day after. In the time since July 2013 we have had three deliveries of information of our FOI request in which we discovered SFU chose the most expensive plan of all offered, and the plan chosen also included a 5% kick-back payment to SFU with no restrictions as to use (details below). Most recently, on November 27th 2014, we received four five-inch binders of disclosures including even more surprising details of the plans inception (of which we are still investigating & processing at this time).

On December 4th & 5th, TSSU had an arbitration scheduled with SFU's legal representative and heavy-weight mediator Vince Ready at Harbour Centre. SFU asked for mediation to begin, and both days were spent in trying to reach mediated settlement. Settlement was not reached and the mediator will make non-binding recommendations. Once those recommendations are received both the union and the employer have to agree to the terms of settlement. If agreement is not reached, Vince Ready will hold an arbitration.
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All of the different medical plans have you confused?

Check out our information below and/or watch our first 5 and a half minute video (Click here for video) to get the basics of what's going on, how to opt-out, and how to get the most amount of money back possible.

Background: Medical Coverage Information

The medical coverage you receive in BC is broken down into two separate parts: hospital and doctor coverage, and extended benefits (prescription drugs, physiotherapy, dental, etc.).

The GSS has published a comparison of the plans. You can find the Comparison-of-Coverage PDF here.

You can find more information on the Human Resources website here.

SFU has also created page that summarizes medical insurance for students, you can find that page here.
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How to opt out of Guard.me

Upon first arriving to BC you have to wait two-three months before receiving the provincial health care coverage known as "Medical Service Plan" (or MSP). In these three months it is now required by SFU to have medical coverage and you are automatically enrolled in a plan known as Guard.me. The $353 cost is charged in your student fees. There are ways to get some of those fees back.

Important: if you make any claim on guard.me, you will be unable to get a refund of your unused fees. If you need a service, such as physiotherapy or prescription medications, we recommend that you carefully consider your options. The GSS extended health plan also provides coverage for these items and it may be very beneficial for you to not make a claim for such expenses.

To ensure you receive the maximum refund, you should opt-out as soon as possible. Once you have MSP coverage, the Guard.me coverage provides little to no benefit to you and you're paying for duplicate coverage. The matter of Guard.me enrollment is currently has a grievance between TSSU and SFU, as our collective agreement says members should be able elect to obtain coverage (i.e. opt-in, rather than opt-out). However, there is currently no mechanism for students to do this. Thus we recommend students opt-out via the procedure below.

PowerPoint Presentation

  1. If you already have a BC care-card/BC services-card or BC MSP invoice, skip to Step 5.
  2. Sign up for BC MSP
    • If you are working at as a TA/TM/Sessional Instructor, then download the group application and submit it directly to Human Resources
    • Otherwise: download the individual application for enrollment and mail to the address in the footnote on the form.
  3. If you are working as a TA/TM/Sessional then submit a reimbursement request for 50% of the Guard.me premium to Human Resources. As of July 2013, there is a dispute between TSSU and SFU as to the value to be reimbursed. Please contact tssu(at)tssu.ca for more details.
    • First login to go.sfu.ca, go to Account Activity and print off a page showing the $353 charge from Guard.me
    • Fill out our request form
    • Submit the form and the receipt to Human Resources in Strand Hall.
  4. Obtain proof of MSP enrollment. You can demonstrate your enrollment in one of three ways: a scan of a care-card/services-card, a scan of a BC MSP invoice, or a letter from SFU or MSP. Due to a backlog at MSP, the letter comes much faster and is the best way to opt-out.
    • MSP: call 1 800 663-7100 and request a confirmation of coverage letter. It typically takes 2-3 weeks to process
    • Human Resources: email: human_resources(at)sfu.ca and request confirmation of MSP coverage. It typically takes 2-3 business days to generate the letter.
  5. Scan the letter, BC MSP care-card/services-card or MSP invoice that you have received and upload it via the opt-out / early refund form at www.guard.me/sfu
  6. Call Guard.me (1-877-873-8447) and confirm that they have processed your opt-out request.
  7. Ensure you receive a refund on your student account and a cheque from HR if you are a TSSU member.
    • If you opt out in the first month of the semester, you are eligible for the whole amount back (100% refund).
    • If you get an "early-refund" opt-out in month 3 of the semester, then you should receive half of the premium back (50% refund).
    • If you submit the request for reimbursement as a TSSU member, you should receive an additional reimbursement of half of the premium paid to Guard.me. (this can often yield a refund of 75% of the premium).
  8. Ensure you submit updated study permits to MSP if the first permit you submitted expires.

If you have any questions or problems, don't hesitate to contact tssu (at) tssu.ca.

Guard.me is unnecessary and onerous. Here is a game like timeline to help you know what to expect and common pit-falls to avoid in opting out:

PetterCare Health Plan Game
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TSSU's Research & Issues with Guard.me

Comparison chart of BC universities' plans for international students:
(Download PDF HERE)

Comparison ChartFreedom of Information Request Results:

What was SFU offered

The TSSU obtained the information presented in the above table through a freedom of information (FOI) request.

Guard.me option C (with the stars) is the international student insurance plan SFU decided to implement. The $336 plan listed here does not include the $17 administration fee SFU charges on top of the fee paid to Guard.me itself.

What does SFU get out of it?

The SFU administration chose the most expensive international student health insurance plan that offers the largest unrestricted kickback (5%) to SFU.

This option allows SFU to pull the most revenue so that, when combined with the administration fee SFU charges, the university is receiving 10% of the $336 cost of the plan back as revenue, totalling to $34 per student. Combined with the fact that undergraduate students are not allowed any refund, that it is a complicated procedure to opt out of, and that all international student are automatically enrolled, this is a huge source of money for the university. And it is at your expense.


7 Key Issues with the Program

1) Cost
● Guard.me costs 135% more than UBC's coverage
● students have been denied ability to choose the product that suits them
● international students come from diverse economic backgrounds. SFU is not adequately informing students about this cost, negatively impacting their budgets
2) Duration
● students have to buy 4 months but only need 2 months + remainder of month of arrival
● grad students typically arrive 1-2 weeks early and need to pay extra ($2.75 / person / day) for that time
3) Automatic re-enrollment
● students have to actively opt-out, this requires proof that can take a while to obtain
● in the second semester all students are definitely eligible for MSP, SFU could help ensure students apply and get their MSP
4) Early refund & opt-out problems
● early refund is only available to graduate students
● early refund is void if any claim has been made (even $1)
● Only 1 month window to do an early refund
● The additional refund availible through TSSU's Collective Agreement is not being processed by SFU in a timely manner.
5) Duplicate coverage
● after students have MSP, the basic medical coverage is no longer useful
● Guard.me overlaps with the studentcare plan that are mandatory
6) Violation of TSSU's Collective Agreement
● TSSU  members have a right to choose their carrier and have 50%  reimbursed
7) Reality
● Guard.me is the most expensive plan, which also requires opt out and doesn't have any of the niceties of the other programs
● SFU is profiting by this plan being expensive & difficult to get-out of with a 5% kickback
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Upset? Tell international student services how you feel: sfu_international(at)sfu.ca

Get involved by contacting tssu(at)tssu.ca

Help us translate this document to your preferred language, contact tssu (at) tssu.ca for more information. Compensation is available.

Since 1978

The Teaching Support Staff Union (TSSU)