Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Student union drops health insurance broker citing inflated fees and unprofessional behaviour

The Concordia Student Union (CSU) recently announced that it was ending a 12-year relationship with insurance broker Lev Bukhman and his firm, Quebec Student Health Alliance (ASEQ). Instead, they voted to institute a new student-run health plan office.

"It appeared to us that over the last few years our health and dental plan was delivering more value to ASEQ and Sun Life than it was to Concordia students," said CSU president Keyana Kashfi in a media release citing over payments of over $1.3 million over the last three years.

"Every time Concordia student representatives asked more probing questions about our plan's performance, Mr. Bukhman's behaviour became more threatening and erratic," she added.

CSU representatives also expressed concern at Bukhman’s refusal to solicit quotes from insurance providers other than Sun Life during last year's renewal. The students’ union points to Mr. Bukhman’s “affinity relationship” with Sun Life, related to the volume of business he generates for the insurer, as a possible motivation for this.

Concerns by the CSU that their insurance interests were not being properly represented were met with a call by Bukhman that the Concordia administration to step in and meddle with the student health plan affairs.

The role of an insurance broker is to represent the student union’s best interests when negotiating with insurance providers. The details of the negotiations should be fully accessible, not just to assess the broker’s competence, but as an important check against the possibility of contracts that benefit the broker at the expense of the client.

Unfortunately, broker-client problems are not limited to the CSU-ASEQ. Representatives at other student unions have cited similar concerns of brokers pulling the wool over their eyes only to discover later on that contracts have disproportionately benefited the broker.

For example, the Ryerson Students’ Union has a long history of troubles with Gallivan and Associates with whom they have been “shackled” into a contract since 2004.

Part-time students at Ryerson are currently without health and dental insurance. While it is important for the CESAR to investigate this needed service for its members, they must learn from the lessons from the CSU and RSU and not duplicate them.

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