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USI has written to Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly TD with an an urgent appeal for him to support the Health Insurance (International Students) (Amendment) Bill 2021.

Re: Urgent need to support the Health Insurance (International Students) (Amendment) Bill 2021  

Dear Minister Donnelly,

On behalf of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) and our members this is an urgent appeal to you to support the Health Insurance (International Students) (Amendment) Bill 2021.

USI as the national representative body for 375,000 students across the island of Ireland have long campaigned for this legislative change. USI alongside representatives from Higher Education Institutions across Ireland who are supportive of this change and who wish to see it enacted ahead of the Autumn academic year.

International students face considerable barriers and costs when attending college in Ireland. The (Health Insurance (International Students) (Amendment) Bill 2021) deals with only one issue, namely the huge increase in insurance costs for non-EEA students in Ireland regarding health insurance. You will understand that our sector is experiencing unprecedented challenges and international students are extremely concerned about the increase in insurance costs that have been imposed on them since October 2020. All non-EEA students are required to have insurance to meet Department of Justice requirements. However, international students are now required by the Health Insurance Authority (HIA) to have private health insurance. No other group in the country is required to have private health insurance.

In order to rectify this anomaly and ensure equality for all students, Senator Malcolm Byrne has introduced a Seanad Private Members Bill titled the Health Insurance (International Students) (Amendment) Bill 2021. This Bill is a simple Bill and would remove international students from the definition of ordinarily resident, thereby removing the legal requirement for them to have very expensive private health insurance and allowing them access more affordable and tailored insurance that meets all requirements. We would urge you to support this Bill and to work with other Government colleagues to help protect the higher education sector in Ireland.

International students are huge contributors to third level institutions, our society and the Irish economy as a whole. The increase in these insurance costs since October 2020, will impact the number of students coming to Ireland and there is significant disquiet amongst our students with our member colleges as to how the Government can stand over such an increase, without intervening.

The Health Insurance (International Students) (Amendment) Bill 2021 would immediately resolve the issue and help remove the inequality that has been introduced for international students. By supporting the enactment of the Health Insurance (International Students) (Amendment) Bill 2021 you will be supporting international students and the higher education sector in Ireland.

On behalf of the members of the Union of Students in Ireland, we urge you to support this Bill and ensure that this inequity is rectified before the start of the Autumn academic term.

We would welcome the opportunity to discuss this matter with you, however if you have any questions on the matter please do get in touch.

Le gach dea-ghuí,

Lorna Fitzpatrick,
Union of Students in Ireland

Marie Lyons,
Equality & Citizenship Vice President,
Union of Students in Ireland